Soccer is the best sport in the world. There, I said it.
Sure, I know that’s just this man’s opinion, but I also know that I’m not alone.
I’ve always believed there’s something about soccer that separates it from other popular sports. As a youngster, I found the game’s objective easy to understand, there were no complicated rules, and best of all, I could practice my dribbling skills anywhere.
After a few broken lamps, “anywhere” became “anywhere except for the living room, kitchen, etc.,” but I remained a kid with a passion for soccer. Considering how popular the sport has become among youth in the United States, it’s clear that I wasn’t the only one breaking my parents’ valuable furniture.
According to U.S. Youth Soccer annual registration data, there were 1.6 million children registered to play in 1990. Ten years later, that number nearly doubled to over 3 million kids enrolled in the sport.
I was one of the millions immersed in the action. I had an eagerness to learn as much as I could about my newfound love, and that enthusiasm was infectious. The energy was felt throughout my community as more kids fell in love with everything that soccer offered.
Local parks that had once been the hot spot for impromptu games of two-hand touch football were soon overrun by my soccer-loving crew. We’d chase after each other for hours, completely unaware of the type of advanced skills needed to become a “great” soccer player. All we knew was that we’d never tire of trying to kick a ball into the back of a net.
Of course, not everyone carries that same sentiment. While soccer has experienced incredible growth and popularity over the past 20 years, it is still struggling to surpass the long-held favorites in the crowded U.S. sports landscape.
More often than not, critics point to soccer’s lack of scoring and highlight-reel action, which can be difficult to accept by a sports audience that increasingly craves high scores and spectacular plays.
While the criticism of soccer may give one the idea that the sport isn’t making any headway in the states, a 2018 Gallup report suggests otherwise. Seven percent of U.S. adults named soccer as their favorite sport to watch, the highest overall number in the poll’s history. Perhaps more importantly, 11 percent of adults aged 18 to 34 named soccer as their favorite, which tied basketball for second in that same demographic.
These numbers show that there’s plenty of youthful energy still in place for the sport, just as it was in my younger days.
That’s why soccer is the sport of the future. It has continued to capture the imagination of kids throughout the world, and present-day players will surely be future fans.
There’s a reason why soccer is often referred to as the beautiful game. What started as a quote from the game’s most legendary player, Pelé, has evolved into a higher level of understanding and comradery for those who have interacted with the sport.
Like a fine work of art, the skills, the tactics, and the nature of the game itself are indeed beautiful. Its appeal has kept me coming back time and time again, always captivated by what the road ahead could look like for the sport here in the U.S.
I may not be a little kid anymore, but every time I pick up a soccer ball, I regain the same youthful passion and energy that I once had. I recall the connections with friends from all walks of life, the pounds of mud we amassed on rainy days, and of course, the trips to the store with my mom to replace yet another broken lamp.
Though I never quite became the great player I aspired to be, I like to think I had a small part in pushing this unique game towards relevancy.
And with the country’s youth finding more and more reasons to fall in love with the beautiful game, soccer will continue its rise towards a prominent spot in the American sports landscape.