Rounding Third: U.S. soccer needs a Derek Jeter

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Now that the United States has been
eliminated from the World Cup, can we all stop pretending that we are into
soccer?

Don’t get me wrong, I was as into Tuesday’s match, game, whatever, as much as
anyone, but I am probably not going to watch another soccer game that doesn’t
involve a 5-year-old for another four years.

And I have a feeling I am probably not alone.

People weren’t filling venues around the country to watch Jurgen Klinsmann’s
boys on Tuesday because soccer has all of a sudden become our national
pastime. Of course, there are soccer fans, more than you probably might
think. They are the ones who keep telling you that soccer is going to be the
next great sport here in America.

And by great sport, I mean marketable.

But I have news for those people. The vast majority of us who became involved
in all this, like myself, did so because of American pride. And because ESPN
has shoved it down our throats for the past few weeks.

If there was some sort of world lacrosse championships, we’d probably tune
into that, too.

Is soccer coming? What does that even mean? Where I live, hundreds and hundreds
of kids play soccer. It has been that way since I was young. It’s already
here and it has been forever.

Haven’t we had this same discussion every four years since the World Cup was
contested here in the United States back in 1994? It even goes back further
than that to when the great Pele came to play for the New York Cosmos back in
1975.

Nothing came of it then and nothing will come of it now, either.

Heck, the U.S. women’s team actually won the World Cup in 1999 and nothing
changed. Yes, we all know who Brandi Chastain is, but only because she ripped
her shirt off after winning it.

Name me three other women on that team.

Who is the face of U.S. soccer? Well, a few months ago people probably would
have said Landon Donovan. Well, he wasn’t even on this World Cup team. If you
ask anyone today about the face of U.S. soccer, you’ll probably hear goaltender
Tim Howard, thanks to perhaps one of the more tremendous performances ever in
Tuesday’s loss to Belgium.

But guess what, Howard doesn’t even play professionally in the United States.
He plays for Everton F.C. in the English Premier League.

And there is the problem. There are probably a whole lot of kids who know who
Howard is today. But, if they want to go see him play in person, well, you
might as well forget it.

How can you sell a sport when the best players don’t even play in your
country?

The great U.S. players don’t play in “our” league. Instead of the MLS, they
play overseas. MLS is actually still playing games right now as the World Cup
is being contested.

Can you imagine the NHL continuing its schedule during the Olympics?

That should tell you all you need to know. MLS is a joke, and U.S. players
know it. How are we as a country supposed to get behind something that our
best players don’t even support?

You want to make soccer a viable option here in the United States, develop a
young player and keep him here. Get someone we can rally behind, like a Derek
Jeter, like a Mike Trout.

I have been told that there is a 19-year-old stud named Julian Green from
Tampa, Florida, who could one day be one of the best players in the world.
But, again, he plays professionally for Bayern Munich in Germany. And he’ll be
there until at least 2017.

How about we bring him home, build MLS around him and put him in as many
commercials as LeBron James or Tiger Woods. Or Jeter.

If you want to make soccer a viable option, you have to find a way to keep the
players here. The best athletes in our country are not playing soccer.
Probably because there is no end game. There is no viable professional league.

Make the MLS a viable option and then maybe we can have this discussion of
soccer in the United States.

Until then … well, see you in four years.

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