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Respect for U.S. Soccer

The term ‘soccer’ is one that is met with ironic sneers and pointed jests around the world, outside the United States. For all the American exceptionalism that exists, the one sport where Americans could never impose their dominance was soccer, or football as the whole rest of the world calls it. Americans have never fully embraced soccer, instead they’ve embraced baseball, American football, ice hockey, auto-racing.

Americans when faced with competition are accustomed to a binary outcome –  either defeat or victory, but soccer offers a draw as well. For generations, Americans have sent their elite athletes to the top franchises in major North American sports while the rest of the world focused on one or maybe two sports. The United States hasn’t participated in the premier sporting event of the soccer world, the World Cup, in eight years. The United States with a team of MLS players and a mix of rising stars playing in Europe have overcome phantoms of the past despite having an essential pay-for-play model domestically. Many lower income athletes have been excluded from top tiers of American soccer because they haven’t been able to afford fancy travel means and haven’t had the opportunities more wealthy athletes have had. In other nations, children play in the streets with a soccer ball at their feet and that is their sole athletic focus.

Nevertheless, the United States has advanced once again to the knockout rounds of the World Cup and announced itself on the world stage with a draw against England, the nation where soccer itself was founded. America is turning the corner and it couldn’t happen at a more opportune time. In a nation that is more divided than it has been in living memory, countless Americans, regardless of political beliefs, have cheered on their national team and have in doing so restored some semblance of unity and national pride. Sports have the ability to unite us and show us the best in humanity. While there is a shadow in Qatar with its human rights abuses and inhumane conditions under which the stadiums were built, the fact remains that the World Cup went ahead. Let’s take this opportunity to come together and unite, as one nation, one team.


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