Whether you were around to see bands like Green Day and the Offspring climb to the top of the charts or not, the musical landscape changed abruptly in the last decade of the century. Some people give full credit to Nirvana but that overlooks many of the ingredients that contributed to this musical upheaval. Punk was a largely underground scene during the 1980s when pop music and hair bands dominated the air waves. Despite being chided and largely non-existent in popular media outlets, it still maintained a following that was passionate about it. By the time that the 90s came around and the desire for an alternative to the very superficial was at a peak, the punk bands of the 90s gained in popularity.
Trading music for sport, the proliferation of soccer throughout the US has taken a similar trajectory. Although there is no “underground” sports scene, soccer gained its following in the youth ranks. Much like the punks of the 80s, kids playing soccer for several decades have received their ridicule for being outside of the mainstream sports. In the professional ranks, Major League Soccer was the second attempt to bring soccer to the masses. The NASL had brought some awareness to the sport but it was largely an imported spectacle. It probably helped the grassroots interest in the sport but the professional vacuum of a decade made it solely a kids game. This could be construed as a negative but it also made the participants care about the sport rather than heroes on the TV screen. The DIY mentality has been helpful in creating a supporters culture within the sport.
Punk hit a crescendo in the 90s because the masses began to see what the people from the underground always knew. They had a special thing. Even though it wasn’t popular with everyone, they loved it. That sentiment began to rub off on others. When you don’t care if the thing that you love is popular with everyone, the masses eventually take notice because organic growth happens through passion, not marketing.
Now that soccer has become relevant within the mainstream, where does it go from here? My opinion is not worth much but I believe that it goes on a thirty year run of being the most popular sport in the US. Music genres dominate for decades. Sports tend to dominate for quarter or half centuries. When the USMNT wins the World Cup in 2026, the work that the USWNT has done will be complete. The United States will truly be considered a soccer nation and the inferiority complex that we have about the sport will disappear. People who throw shade at MLS and our lack of high level talent will be silenced.
Come As You Are!