In the latest episode of the Soccer Life Balance podcast, Pete gives his thoughts on the “epidemic” that is killing youth soccer.
The election of a new USSF President is almost upon us. Although the holder of this post may not be as recognized as the President of the United States, the impact of soccer on the world is not a thing to be discounted. It has both started and ended violence. So with this decision looming in the near future, what impact will the new POTUSSF have on the sport and the country at large?
To the general public, the answer would most definitely be “none”. It is an absurd thought to give this decision anything more than a passing glance on their newsfeed. This is an organization that specializes in a sport that garners almost complete indifference from most of its populace. It’s national power would, to the average citizen, rank somewhere around that of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts of America. Mostly kids and adults running around to get medals and club patches. While that characterization might be accurate on certain levels, it completely discounts several factors that could have a tsunami type affect based on this relative flap of a butterfly’s wing.
Perception Is Reality
It’s often not pretty but the perception of truth often has greater staying power than the actual truth. At the moment, the United States has an international perception problem. Regardless of your personal feelings about Donald Trump, his policies or his impact on the United States; he is projecting many of the characteristics most disliked about Americans. His overall agenda to “Make America Great Again” seems to come with the postscript, “non-Americans watch out.” Despite being only one man, the President has the dubious responsibility of being a partial personification of what the United States is. Mr. Trump’s actions, statements and Tweets may be his own but they also belong to all Americans when viewed from afar.
The Butterfly’s Wing
Eight candidates are being considered with varying degrees of experience, personal motive and leadership potential. While I’ll keep my personal preference on candidates completely out of this, the worst thing that the voters could do in these circumstances would be to elect on celebrity rather than ability. The reason being that the perception of the USSF and its new President has very real implications in a short period of time. The selection of the host for the 2026 World Cup will be made on June 13th. While the North American Triad of the USA, Mexico and Canada may seem like a sure thing when pitted against Morocco, small nations have dealt us unlikely defeat recently (and I won’t bring up Qatar either).
Winning the bid to host the 2026 World Cup is one of the crucial components to a successful Presidency for any of these candidates. Failure to secure this bid is not just bad for soccer, it is bad for this country.
In the mind of the general citizen of the United State in 2018, the World Cup is nothing more than a soccer tournament. It’s a fun diversion at best and non-factor for most. However in an even more interconnected world of 2026, it is a spotlight shining directly onto the United States. This event gives us the opportunity to be gracious hosts to the world. While seemingly trivial from the inside, this role could be crucial to change an international perception of a nation that exports entertainment and soldiers under a leader of singular self-interest. As news becomes more dependent on the “man on the street”, it is conceivable (if not) probable that brand America’s reputation in the remote corners of the world will depend on the personal experiences of a group of soccer fans supporting their team in egocentric America.
Stirring the Melting Pot
In addition to the World Cup bid, the new President will at the very least have an influence over the involvement of Hispanic communities in US soccer. The recent loss of Jonathan Gonzalez to the Mexican National Team system is not so much a loss of talent but a loss of contact. The roots of many Hispanic Americans in this country run deep. US history is so inextricably intertwined with that of Hispanic heritage that a number of our states and cities have Spanish names (regardless of how we pronounce them). The involvement of Hispanic players, coaches and fans (or lack thereof) in US soccer will be another key to US soccer counteracting the more pervasive American perceived ethos.
While soccer does not possess the ability to cure all that ails this country, it can be a catalyst for positive change. The leadership that is selected must realize the importance of this game, not only as a sport but a form of quasi religion that can galvanize the people under its spell. With this power comes great responsibility, here’s to hoping that the lesser of the two presidents is able to learn from the missteps of the commander in chief. “Let’s Make American Soccer Great!”
Thanks for reading!
PS – Historically speaking, host nations seem to have a greater likelihood of winning the World Cup. With young players like Pulisic and Adams being in their mid twenties in 2026, there’s a fighter’s chance.