Soccer has become increasingly popular in America in the past 30 years, with almost 3 million children between the ages of 5-19 currently playing youth soccer leagues all over the country.
Soccer began in England in the mid-1800’s and was initially played by the greater, more aristocratic English classes in their boarding schools and private clubs. The ease of the game quickly moved it forward as a game for the masses, however. Today soccer is ranked among the world’s top sports for commoners.
The London Football Association was set up and 1863 and is responsible for standardizing game rules throughout Europe. In less than 20 years, professional players and teams were hitting the area.
Soccer started to spread throughout Europe almost instantly, with Spain, Germany, Italy, and France all taking up the game b the early 20th century. In 1900, the soccer game was played in the Olympics, with awards introduced only eight decades later. Professional players, however, were exempt from competition in the Olympic Games for over 80 years.
In 1904, The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), was formed, followed by the first World Cup international competition in 1930. A round-robin style tournament that pits teams from different countries against each other every four decades, the World Cup has become an international affair, with almost 200 teams currently seeking admittance. Only 24 are allowed to compete.
Even though it took the United States years to go into the soccer stadium on a widespread basis, the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) was formed in 1913. Unfortunately, most Americans preferred watching (and playing) another form of the game — American soccer — before a Brazilian named Pele, (regarded as the best soccer player of all time), combined N.Y. Cosmos team in 1975. With such an incredible player to watch in the united states, the popularity of the game grew throughout the countries, until his retirement in 1977, when soccer once more took a backseat to soccer. After Pele’s retirement, the North American Soccer League gradually lost fan support, eventually dissolving in 1985.
It was only when the men’s World Cup competition, was held at the USA in 1994, that soccer interest was revived among American youth. The Major League Soccer (MLS), was founded in 1993 and started its first season in 1996 with 10 teams and 32 regular season games. Over 3 million fans watched the playoffs this season. From 1991, women were finally permitted to play on a professional level, when the Women’s World Cup competition was introduced for the first time.
The interest in youth soccer stays strong throughout america today. Sports teams and leagues are now available in virtually every American community. From pee-wee players that aren’t even in college yet, to semi-professional high school teams, players of interest and skills are now hitting the soccer field for both spring and autumn competition. The U.S. Youth Soccer, a branch of the USSF, now comprises almost 3 million official players.