History of Soccer in the USA
How soccer gained popularity in the US and how the game evolved through time.
Origin of Soccer in America
Soccer was introduced in the U.S. by immigrants from England, Scotland and Germany in the late nineteenth century through the ports of New Orleans. The FA rules are believed to have been first used in a U.S. match in November 1869 between Rutgers University and Princeton University.
Governance in soccer was introduced in the region in 1884 through the American Football Association. Its initial influence was centered in parts of New Jersey and New York but it later spread to Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. In its first year of existence, AFA planned a non-league cup. Confusion between the use of ‘association football’ and ‘American football’ prompted the use of soccer to refer to association football in the early 1920s.
The American Amateur Football Association & United States Soccer Federation
The American Amateur Football Association was created in October 1911 and was set to rival the AFA. Both the AFA and AAFA sought recognition from FIFA in 1913 as the national governing body.
Struggle within the AFA saw AAFA take the honors as United States Football Association (currently the United States Soccer Federation-USSF) in April 1913. The soccer war that ensued between the USFA and American Soccer League run by AFA eventually led to the fall of the sport.
The sport emerged again and gained much popularity in the 1960 to 2000 period. At this time, Pele from Brazil was signed by the New York Cosmos in 1975. His reputation in soccer attracted more interest in soccer. In addition, soccer matches during the 1984 Summer Olympics garnered large crowds prompting FIFA to consider holding the FIFA World Cup in the U.S in 1994. This was a significant boost in the evolution of this sport.
Throughout the history of soccer in the United States, the organization has been known by three different names:
U.S. Football Association - 1913-1944
U.S. Soccer Football Association - 1945-1973
U.S. Soccer Federation - 1974-Current
The Major League Soccer
The MLS was launched in 1993 as part of the successful bid by the U.S. to host the World Cup. It is the top professional league currently having 16 teams from the United States and 3 from Canada taking part. The MLS is a younger competition compared to first division leagues from other countries. However, it ranks high in attendance numbers and has observed major steps in promoting the sport. It is run by the USSF.
The best team in the season running from March to October is presented the Supporters’ Shield. The teams in MLS also take part in other competitions namely the MLS Cup, the Canadian Championship, the CONCACAF Champions League and the U.S Open Cup. The introduction of a domestic league paved way for many American players to develop their skills. The remarkable results in the 2002 World Cup after USA reached the quarter finals for the very first time can be attributed to this.
Soccer Leagues in America
The second tier after MLS is the North American Soccer League. The United Soccer Leagues (USL) oversees other five leagues. These leagues cover all teams including the lower division men teams. The leagues are responsible for admitting and managing individual teams. The USL runs the USL Pro, the Premier Development League, W-League and Super Y-League. Other leagues are the National Premier Soccer League, Women’s Premier Soccer League, Pacific Coast Soccer League, Major Indoor Soccer League and the College Soccer.
The NASL has 10 teams taking part while the USL Pro currently includes 14 teams. The tournament has had a number of teams joining in the recent past. The MLS teams field a reserve team to take part in the USL Pro. These leagues do not follow a relegation and promotion format like other leagues around the world.
US hosting Football World Cup
Looking back, hosting the FIFA World Cup in 1994 was a major phase in the growth of the game in the U.S. The sport attracted more attention from both media and fans. It was a major success that boosted the development of soccer through the 1990s. Concerns surrounding hosting the world cup range from bad publicity as a result of crime to immense costs incurred by the host nation.
Nonetheless, the nation has the whole world following the events intently and this serves as a great opportunity to air its stories and offer the perfect impression of the country to the whole world.
The FIFA rules point to a likely CONCACAF bid for the 2026 World Cup making the United States a likely host amongst other probable bidders namely Mexico and Canada. Hosting such an event means requires the renovation of facilities which are later used to develop the sport. Such facilities have a hand in encouraging the young players and promoting social benefits as a whole.
Top soccer clubs in US
The most decorated domestic clubs in MLS existence are the LA Galaxy and D.C. United as each of them have won the MLS Cup title four times. The Galaxy has been the MLS Cup champion for four times, won the U.S. Open Cup twice and were the 2000 CONCACAF Champions. They made the headlines by signing the renowned David Beckham of England in 2007.
D.C. United emerged as a very successful club during the early stages of the MLS by taking 8 titles between 1996 and 1998. Other successful clubs in the US are Columbus Crew (awarded the Supporter’s shield thrice), the San Jose Earthquakes, Kansas City Wizards, Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls.