Stars such as Michael Jordan and Tom Brady have put the NBA and the NFL on the map outside of the United States. Their levels of excellence in their respective sports projected them beyond the borders of the USA and into households across the world. Their success has increased the popularity of both the NBA and the NFL internationally, ensuring all the top talent flows into American sport.
There has no such watershed moment in soccer yet, although there are promising signs emerging in the Premier League due to the exploits of Christian Pulisic. The 21-year-old has produced a string of exciting performances for Chelsea in his debut campaign in the league, and has truly found his form since the restart of the league in June.
His development could make or break a challenge from the Blues next season for the Premier League crown. Pulisic’s performances will have a huge effect on Chelsea’s odds found on the Premier League betting page, with the American taking on the role that Eden Hazard performed in two title surges at Stamford Bridge. Establishing that level of excellence would certainly put the world on notice.
American soccer needs a global icon, especially to boost the levels of talent available in the MLS and USL. There is not the quality needed in the divisions to raise further awareness of the sport that Americans have not taken to their hearts unlike almost every other country in the world. Part of that reticence is the standard of soccer available to watch locally. Teams of the ilk of the Charleston Battery in the USL are hardly going to get the pulses racing unless you’re a hardcore soccer fan. American soccer needs elite levels of talent in the MLS then to filter down as has been the case in leagues around the world and vice versa up through the ranks.
Unfortunately, the talent is only flowing in one direction – towards European football. The rising stars of the USMNT are plying their trade in the Bundesliga or in England. German football has been a haven of American soccer players. Landon Donovan made the initial impact, while Michael Bradley had a solid career at Borussia Monchengladbach. Pulisic launched the major breakthrough at Borussia Dortmund and now Bundesliga is flooded with promising talent.
Weston McKennie, John Brooks and Josh Sargent are all integral parts of their respective outfits. Sargent could be the next one to rise to the top in the mould of Pulisic after impressing for Werder Bremen and also notching five goals in his international career. It’s promising that players of quality are beginning to emerge and play well in top European competitions, as well as for the USMNT.
However, other than the hardcore fans that watch the Bundesliga and the occasional lift around major international tournaments such as the World Cup – there will not be the recognition required for the MLS and soccer to rise in the States. It’s up to governing bodies of the MLS and US Soccer to ensure that talent flows back into the game – only then will players of the ilk of Pulisic and Sargent be available for American fans to see in the flesh at stadiums across the country.