Without having to attach the quote to a specific pundit or fan, we’re all familiar with the claim that “soccer will never take off in America.” Was there any merit to buying into that school of thought? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, here’s a quick refresher of the most commonly expressed feels:
- It’s boring because they don’t score very much.
- …because, ties.
- …because, flopping…acting so dramatic…
- MLS can only get old players that are washed to come here.
- Sorry, I need more blood and guts in my football
- And so on and so forth and what have you…
Most of those takes are fairly stereotypical and unfounded, but for a long time that was the way a majority of American sports fans thought about the game of soccer. But, I don't think I'm going out on a limb saying that the summer of 2023 will be America’s perfect storm of soccer, or at least the first of more in the near future. A true turning point in the sport’s standing within the nation’s sports culture and its growing embrace by the casual American sports fan.
The Loons themselves will be part of that storm when they, and every other club within both MLS and Liga MX, Mexico’s top flight league, will battle with each other for continental dominance in the Leagues Cup. While MNUFC has played in other in-season tournaments prior to this, none have been on this grand of a stage and none have had the level of competition to match up with. And, for those of you tournament snobs who would prefer the Madness of March, don't worry, we've got brackets too. Which, for the record, you need to get filled out and submitted before the start of the tournament on July 21. Here’s a link, so get on that, stat.
Not only will Minnesota's eyes be on the Loons performance in the Leagues Cup, but that perfect storm of soccer only gained strength last weekend in Miami, ironically, during an actual storm. That would be Sunday night, when Inter Miami CF introduced not just a new player, but a new era of soccer in America. Lionel Messi, the best soccer player on the planet who just so happens to be outrunning father time and is still playing at the highest of levels, joined the ranks of Major League Soccer. Something that was once thought to be simply a dream scenario has come true for American soccer fans and is a watershed moment for the league that goes beyond any of its previous high-profile signings or talents to give it a go in the States. And, as fate would have it, he will make his debut with Inter Miami on the opening night of Leagues Cup play against Liga MX side Cruz Azul at 7 p.m. CT. The excitement surrounding his arrival will not only draw the interest of the casual American sports fan but also that of the world’s entire soccer community. The impact of Messi drawing the eyeballs of the soccer world on MLS can only raise the heights of the league’s popularity, and not just in America.
And, before the United States, Canada, and Mexico play host to the first Intracontinental World Cup in June 2026, which will likely only solidify the sport’s rising appeal in the US, the nation will get to see the historically successful US Women’s National Team in World Cup action. Not only do they have a fighting chance on the world’s biggest stage, but as they often are, they will be considered one of the most elite, talented teams in the entire tournament. But, along with the USWNT looking to complete a historical three-peat, add on the fact that this will be Megan Rapinoe’s final World Cup. With Rapinoe’s standing as one of the nation’s most popular players in our nation’s history, male or female, you can bet that this perfect storm of soccer is ready to bear down on much of those preconceived notions about the sport and smash them like an F5.
So, my fellow American sports fans, batten down the hatches and head for the storm bunker, because the beautiful game’s next big chapter is ready to let loose on the American sports landscape as we know it. And, quite honestly, you just might like the forecast of what’s to come. Now, go fill out your brackets.