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Northern Valley Youth Soccer League

After watching the 2006 World Cup, it's hard to be anything but extremely disappointed at the state of American soccer. The Americans for the most part have been completely non-competitive throughout the century in soccer competitions. The reasons for this are both elusive and many. This fact was shown extensively in the Americans performance in this year's World Cup, in which they were embarrassed. They only scored one goal the entire Cup and this was an own goal by Italy in a tie. The American inferiority in soccer is quite strange considering in all other sports the Americans are either dominant or at least very competitive. Soccer however is a different story.

If we try and analyze the reasons why Americans lag behind in soccer we can look in several directions. The first is that young American children simply don't take an interest in soccer, instead preferring to play more popular sports such as football and basketball. This however is a little off base. Soccer is a very popular sport among young children in America, and as a child almost all children play soccer at some level. The idea that soccer isn't popular in America so nobody plays soccer thereby robbing the American team of a large talent pool is a misnomer.

Another hypothesis (a more reasonable one) is that since there is no viable professional soccer league in the United States the best athletes choose a sport where they can make a successful living. This guess is much closer to the truth. The poor quality of play and incompetence of the MLS has caused many gifted soccer players that might be playing for the American national team to either play another sport or to go overseas to play. In the MLS only inferior soccer players who aren't skilled enough to play overseas play for an MLS team. This causes a lack of interests in the MLS from Americans and consequently a lack of good players that will play for America in the World Cup. The American national team wasn't as good as those from other countries for a simple reason. That reason is that the quality of professional soccer played in America is just not on par with the quality of professional soccer played in other countries. You don't hear about any players like Ronaldhinho or Ronaldo in America. The reason you don't hear about them isn't because people don't like soccer in America. The reason is the MLS isn't an attractive league to players like this. The players in the MLS are simply awful. If the league was legitimate and started paying players as much as the counterpart leagues in Europe then maybe the MLS would have a chance, but this is not the case.

The lack of a legitimate professional soccer league is clearly the reason why Americans have had so little success in soccer on the world stage. The MLS has been plagued by incompetent ownership and management which has prevented it from becoming a legitimate soccer league. This isn't a case of what comes first the chicken or the egg. If the league was run correctly soccer could become a legitimate league and draw good talent and eventually grew into a league the was able to afford the Ronaldhinhos of the world. But the MLS isn't this type of league and that's why American national soccer has been non-competitive and will continue to be non-competitive until the MLS decides to its act together.

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Soccer