A great article in the New York Times this weekend got me thinking. Well, that's not true, but it did get me thinking about this topic again (probably for the 400th time).
Why is soccer in the US a sport of the upper class?
The US is the only country that suffers from this. Elsewhere, the game is truly the people's game. It is played by everyone, but loved and cherished by the lower classes. It only takes a ball to play. Only in America do kids think that they need coaches, referees, fancy cleats, shin guards, a perfect grass field, parents on the sideline in folding chairs, and orange slices to play. It only takes a ball, and not even a fancy new Nike or adidas one...
While American professional players are starting to become more diverse, there's still a long way to go. Most had to pay huge fees to play on high level youth teams. While a few are getting scholarships to play, the kids who can't afford it usually have to settle for lower level teams that might not offer the same opportunities or have to give up playing altogether.
The big money business of youth soccer stifles the growth of the game in the US. It limits the number of players who have the opportunity to be seen and receive high level coaching. It discourages kids and parents from economically disadvantaged background from getting involved or even becoming fans. It creates an elitist system.
There are organizations out there doing something about this. The members of the Urban Soccer Collaborative, the US Soccer Foundation, any many other teams, clubs, and individual coaches are out there trying to give the game to everyone.
When everyone feels welcome to enjoy soccer in the US is when we'll truly see soccer embraced by the country.