British Expat: Why the U.S. Will Win FIFA World Cup By 2050

Real Salt Lake's Luis Gil represents the future of U.S. soccer. (Photos: AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Real Salt Lake’s Luis Gil represents the future of U.S. soccer. (Photos: AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

It is not uncommon to receive skeptical looks from both Brits and Americans when I mention the U.S.’s prospects of one day winning the FIFA World Cup. “Americans don’t take football seriously,” charge the British. “Soccer will never eclipse the NFL,” insist the Americans.

But having lived in the United States for five years, I can predict without fear that, despite the reservations of those who have weighed in on the matter, the United States international team will win the World Cup by 2050.

Actually, the U.S. has already twice lifted the trophy. The women’s national team won the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991 and repeated the trick in 1999. Further to that, this high-achieving team has never finished a World Cup below third place, and should be an inspiration to not just female footballers, but males too.

Football, albeit gradually, is growing in the United States; the popularity of Premier League teams such as Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal has never been higher, as young American sports enthusiasts open their wallets for the latest jerseys.

You only have to walk into a pub (which are also growing in number stateside) on a Saturday afternoon to see evidence of this; games, especially those between the main title contenders, often draw big crowds, from which American voices—discussing the finer points of the offside rule or the latest antics of Luis Suarez—rise high above all else.

These pubs, of course, rely heavily on NBC’s Premier League coverage—one of several ways to follow your favorite team’s exploits. Having struck a three-year deal with the Premier League earlier this year, NBC’s coverage has exceeded the company’s expectations, with ratings climbing from gameweek to gameweek.

This shouldn’t come as any great surprise; football is the the most commercially profitable sport on the entire planet, with approximately 600 million viewers tuning in globally to watch the 2010 World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands. Intriguingly, 15.5 million of these were American viewers, up 41 percent from 2006.

Of course, if there is one nation who knows how to capitalize financially on this sort of popularity, it is the United States. Indeed, supporters of Manchester United and Liverpool should know this more than anyone; the two most successful teams in English football are bankrolled by American owners.

Furthermore, in the form of David Beckham, the United States has an icon to raise the profile of its domestic game. Less than a year after the former England and Los Angeles Galaxy captain announced his retirement from the game, Beckham looks set to purchase an MLS franchise in Miami. Perhaps his star power, as well as his undoubted connections in the game, can help expand the reach and quality of Major League Soccer in the coming years.

Undoubtedly, though, the biggest sign of things to come lies within the nation’s high schools, specifically their fields. More and more goal posts are cropping up around the country and, according to a report by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, soccer has been the fastest growing high school sport since 1990, having seen the number of young players more than double in that time.

If children are the future of the beautiful game in the United States, then the nation’s football future is certainly bright. Working in education over the last two-and-a-half years, I have graded hundreds of papers referencing the student’s perfect role model. Two names frequently come up: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Of course, unlike La Liga’s perennial top scorers, the current crop of American internationals rely not on immense skill but on physical prowess, a feature that detractors have criticized as “one dimensional.”

However, what these critics might be forgetting, and what I have come to find during my own occasional playing time this side of the Pond, is that future U.S. footballers are being positively impacted by the technical know-how of a growing demographic: Latino Americans.

Mexicans and other Latino immigrants often bring with them an infectious love of a mesmerizing style of football unique to Latin America. Indeed, one rising U.S. soccer star who is of Mexican extraction—Luis Gil—is thought to be in Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans ahead of next year’s World Cup in Brazil. Perhaps as a sign of things to come, Gil has been compared to former Arsenal and current Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas, and was even scouted by the Gunners, Real Madrid and Manchester City.

The U.S.’s transition to football superpower won’t happen overnight, and there will be many who might laugh at such a prediction. In 37 years, I am convinced that a good portion of these critics will be laughing not with derision, but with jubilation.

When do you think the U.S. men’s team will be competitive for the World Cup? Make your predictions below and or tweet them at us using hashtag #MindTheChat.

And join us on Twitter Wednesday, November 13 at 2 pm ET for a chat on the Premier League season so far and England’s upcoming pre-World Cup friendlies against Chile and Germany. Tweet your thoughts using #MindTheChat.

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Laurence Brown

Laurence Brown is a British freelance writer living in Indianapolis, Indiana. Having graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in English Language and Creative Writing, Laurence runs a blog called Lost In The Pond, which charts the many cultural and linguistic differences between Britain and The United States.
View all posts by Laurence Brown.
  • Toni Hargis

    Hmm. not sure I know enough about football to make an educated prediction (even though I lived in the shadow of NUFC in England), but I do know that every time there’s ever a ‘big game’ on at Soldlier Field in Chicago, you cannot get moved. It’s as packed as any American football game and the traffic is just as bad.

    • Iain

      And nfl games sell out every time they play them in London. I’m not convinced this means you could have a nfl franchise (ugh) permanently based in London. What percentage of attendees are doing it purely for novelty effect? Would they go every week if they could?

  • gn

    It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if the USA wins the World Cup before England wins another.

  • Irené Colthurst

    Demographic shifts underlie soccer’s growing popularity in the U.S., but the mainstream media and American culture have *not* shifted yet, and it seems like it will be a while, because for most (Anglo, oh the irony) American men soccer would have to displace baseball or football, and that is simply not in the cards yet.

    Compared to the attention baseball and football get, soccer is still small time. Baseball and football have both spawned entire metaphorical lexicons — moving them aside will not happen easily.

    • goalpdl

      Soccer does not need mainstream media to support its growth. With the all the Internet properties and the work NBC are doing with both MLS and the EPL, it is going to grow with our without mainstream media. To the rednecks of the country, it will always be a foreigners game.

      • Irené Colthurst

        My point was that it has a ways to go before it gets properly covered by the New York Times, the way baseball and football are. Hardly the domain of rednecks. Who reads newspapers these days? Old people, aka the ones with influence. Soccer has not won them over, and that’s in the non-South.

        • Grand Poobah

          Does the New York Times even cover sports regularly? I’m not even sure they have a Sports section. They do sometimes run nice stories on modern roller derby though. Folks in The City looking for sports stories read the NY Daily News or the New York Post.

          • Don Cole

            There is a sports section in the NY Times. They actually have several fairly famous columnists (Mike Lupica comes to mind).

  • jsnb2001

    I absolutely agree with this. When I was in HS our school barely had a soccer team. Now, almost every American child plays the game for at least 1 or 2 seasons. Even if they don’t continue, they’ve learned the rules, maybe become a fan, go to local MLS matches, etc. . . But a ton of kids continue to play. There are 10’s of millions of American children. If even a small fraction of them continue on to the highest levels, that’s a big pool of talent to pull from.

    • Iain

      The coaching is poor and as a result, despite the popularity of the game, the USA will not produce top players until this is overhauled. Plus pay to play. See my post above.

  • Iain

    This is complete and utter nonsense. The simple reason the us struggles to produce top football players is coaching. And the system they have. So first coaching. If you are a good player in Europe or South America, you’re playing for a top professional club team from the age of 7. That means you are being coached by and have exposure to the best coaches in the world. In the USA, you’re not. You are playing for a town or a club team and the coaches simply are not the best coaches in the world. Also, think about the progression. In the USA, it is high school, then college. Wayne Rooney was playing for Everton’s first team at 16. He was training with the first team and playing against premier league teams. In the us, he’d be playing varsity a against other varsity teams. Guess what? The us hasn’t produced any Wayne Rooney a likes. Now, this is not to deny the popularity of the game, it is huge and only getting bigger. But the system will not produce top players as stands. Finally, my second point. Pay to play. The best clubs charge player expensive fees to play for them. $3k a year is standard in ny. Clearly this excludes people from poorer backgrounds. Most pro football players come from disadvantaged backgrounds. If you exclude this group (they work hard and will give everything to make it) your chances of producing top players are even lower.

    • Don Cole

      You’re never going to have top-flight youth sports coaching in this country, because our sports system is designed to go through the schools, not through various clubs and whatnot. At the youth level, you have to have volunteer coaches, and you get what shows up.

  • Tim Collins

    The NFL is for thousands of in the closet homosexuals who don’t understand the irony behind the tackle and continue to dwell in their homophobic customs.