U.S. soccer on the rise, must be patient

Steve Puterski

Steve Puterski

Now the World Cup has its winner, the sporting world in the U.S. comes crashing back to earth.

But not all is lost.

For those who became entrenched in the global game, the past month was riveting, exciting and full of great stories. Now, the U.S. fan turns from futbol to football and everything between.

The NFL, which has been bumped off the sports page between the World Cup and LeBron James’ free agency, will turn up the heat in the coming days as training camps open Sunday.

Major League Baseball took its annual three-day break for the All-Star festivities this week and resumes Thursday along with the start of the British Open.

Naturally, the focus on the links will be on Tiger Woods’ return to action. Can he contend? No. Will he make the cut? Doubtful. Will he ever pass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles? No chance.

The redundant stories and banter of “Tiger is back” is utterly exhausting. He is done as the force he once was, won’t break Jack’s record and will not be the consistent player from 10, 12 or 14 years ago.

While, golf’s third major gets underway, it will soon be dwarfed by the resuming action of the MLB, but mostly by the freight train that is the NFL.

And while soccer fans in the U.S. bask in the glow of one of the best World Cups in recent memory with a solid U.S. showing, the sport will once again fall out of the limelight for the next several weeks due to the return of football, American style.

Which brings up an interesting theme discussed ad nauseam the past month — the growth of soccer in the U.S.

No sport just explodes into the American mainstream, but the way soccer has steadily risen through the past 20 years in remarkable.

I’m not sure if it’s the media or soccer fans who are driving the direction of whether the sport has made it or can become of the most popular in this country. Seems a bit of both.

Nevertheless, for soccer to continue its rise a more pragmatic approach is best. Yes, ratings and interest are at an all-time high and must be corralled for the U.S. to become a power in the sport.

But more importantly, the U.S. federation must be proactive in non-World Cup years. The next three years provides the country’s best opportunity to do so.

Next year provides a pair of chances. First, they must play up the U.S. Women’s World Cup in Canada (June 6-July 5) and keep the pressure on the following month with the CONCACAF Gold Cup (July 7-26).

Although the Gold Cup is a second-tier tournament, it does provide some intrigue as winning the tournament will clinch a berth in the 2016 Confederations Cup, which is a World Cup tune-up.

In 2016, a major tournament hits the homeland as the Copa America will be held in the U.S. and out of a South American country for the first time ever. The likes of Brazil, Argentina and Colombia will be a major draw, especially for media coverage.

Another plus the U.S. has in its pockets is the fan support, especially the American Outlaws, who are an organized group with chapters in 44 states and Washington, D.C.

The Outlaws, along with other U.S. supporters, had the most fans other than Brazil and Argentina for the final throughout most of the World Cup. It’s a growing movement and one that has helped create a culture.

The time is now and the iron is hot for U.S. soccer. Hopefully, those in the American federation must take advantage or watch as the sport floats back into the shadows.

Steve Puterski is the sports editor for the Lahontan Valley News and can be contacted at sputerski@lahontanvalleynews.com.


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