From the Sidelines: The issues with US soccer

photo credit: Lincoln Hake

The United States were eliminated from the 2022 Fifa World Cup 3-1 by the Netherlands. A country with more than 300 million fewer people completely dominated the states in the round of 16 of the World Cup games. How is this possible though?

However, it’s not just the United States however. India, which has a population of over one billion people has never qualified for a World Cup. China, also with a gargantuan population, lacks in soccer quality compared to other Asian countries. 

So why is it that countries like Uruguay and Croatia that don’t even combine to comprise ten million people, dominate at the international scale. This imbalance in ability across countries comes down to our youth players.

The Castro Valley Soccer Club in California, has starting prices of $1,200 for U8 players and a raised price of $2100 for U11-U12 players. Club soccer is simply an impossible reality with families who come from low income levels if they must pay over $2000 dollars a year to watch their 11 year old play a sports game. 

These prices for playing at a higher level than a local league have shut off many kids continued interest in soccer which could correlate to how Americans perform at the International level. 

It’s not just the price to play though, both Europe and South America have more competitive leagues than America. In fact, most rising soccer stars all want to take their talents to Europe. But what’s wrong with the US’s domestic league, the MLS?

While the “problem” with the MLS can’t be addressed in one word, there’s many clear identifiers to why it is a lackluster league compared to its European counterparts. 

One of the reasons could be its relative new age compared to international leagues. The MLS’s inaugural campaign was in 1996 and has since had only under 30 seasons of competition. 

Another reason why the league’s quality isn’t nearly the top is because of the players playing in the league. Many European fans have coined the MLS as a “retirement league”, for former soccer legends. David Beckham who is one of the most recognized names of the sport of soccer was one of the first soccer heroes from abroad to join the MLS, with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Since his arrival in 2009 a plethora of soccer icons have had tenures for teams including the likes of the  Los Angeles Galaxy, DC United, and New York Red Bulls, according to

However, in recent years, the United States has made significant strides in getting its national team to the top level. Nearly all of the starting team members featured in the 2022 Qatar World Cup plays overseas in Europe to fully develop their potential, and the team has recently announced a new state of the art training facility in Atlanta, Georgia. 

From not even qualifying for the 2018 World Cup games after a loss to Trinidad & Tobago, the US progress is clear.

But, it still leaves unaddressed gaps in our youth development however. Many starters on the national team are not homegrown and have switched nationalities to represent the United States, with names such as Folarin Balogun, Antonee Robinson, and Sergino Dest. 

With the United States only two years away from hosting its first World Cup in 32 years, the nation will be seen on an international spectacle to showcase whether it is truly ready to compete with the best in the world.