Effects of the World Cup on Grass Roots Soccer in the US
By Steve Crane
The World Cup was a huge event, watched by millions, perhaps billions of people worldwide. For a month, every part of our planet was overtaken by World Cup fever. Even in America! It really helped that the US teams made their games exciting by waiting to the last minute to score against Algeria to qualify and by going 2 goals down to Slovenia before deciding to rally a huge comeback which should have ended in victory. This helped with the media coverage, and the team even made the front pages of the national newspapers. Almost unheard of.
But now the World Cup is over, has it just drifted away into nothing again, not to be spoken of for another four years?
As an A licence coach who runs soccer academies in Orlando, and as a coach educator, training other coaches, I can honestly say that here in Florida there has been an impact. I am out working 4 or 5 nights a week and prior to the World Cup my academies would be the sole occupants of the soccer fields. Now, every time, every evening there are groups of people using the fields. Dads are out with their sons and daughters having a good old fashioned kick about, and there are groups of 20 – 30 young men playing pick up soccer.
This next story is true and really reflect the impact of the World Cup . As I was clearing up after my academy one of the young guys approached me, asked if I was a professional coach and then asked how he could find a way into the pros. I asked about his experience with soccer and he said he’d only just started playing a few years ago, didn’t play in college but now really wanted to be a pro. He was 23 years old. We spoke about soccer, I gave him some advice and asked what had prompted this idea of career path. The World Cup. Now, realistically, this guy has very little chance of making it. But, importantly, he now has a dream, bought about by our beautiful game. I told the guy the truth about his chances but told him not to give up on his dream. If you don’t try you will never succeed.
At my last coaches clinic the week after the World Cup I had 15 more sign ups in the final three days and my biggest group for months. Again, when I was addressing the group I bought up the subject of the larger numbers and again it boiled down to the same thing, The tournament had ignited peoples passion for the game.
Now, the next question is, will it last? I honestly don’t know the answer to this, but I certainly hope so and the level of interest I’ve seen post tournament gives me a positive vibe about the prospects of Soccer becoming a serious sport in America. I hope to keep the young players who come to my academies stimulated and excited about soccer, as well as the coaches that I coach. These people, the youth and the current coaches, are the pathway to success in the US. The World Cup has been a magnificent vehicle to bring the interest to the country, for Americans to see how much the whole world loves the sport and why, we now need to nurture it, and I think the future is bright. Grass roots soccer has been invigorated, let’s keep our fingers crossed that we continue to grow it and hope that one day, one day, the National team will reap the benefits.