USA! USA! Er ... no
US football is nowhere near its superpower status. Soccer is still considered a social sport, and is beloved among schoolgirls. The country is a powerhouse of women’s soccer.
Although the US national men’s team is also well funded and has pulled off surprise wins – it made the final against Spain in the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup here in South Africa – Major League Soccer (MLS) is still seen as a place where players go to have a holiday and cash in before they retire. Looking at the calibre of player the league has attracted recently, not much has changed.
The MLS might have lured highprofile players David Beckham, Didier Drogba, Thierry Henry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Kaka and Andrea Pirlo, but they all went in the twilight of their careers, seeking a last big payday. The MLS pays these famous names more than they could hope for in Europe. But even with them on board, the league has not reached the heights it aims for.
Last year Gerrard signed an 18month $9 million (R141 million) contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy, and the former Liverpool captain was already 35. The latest faded recruit is former England international Ashley Cole (also 35), whose contract at AS Roma was terminated.
The MLS wants to be among the world’s biggest leagues by 2022, but with the Chinese coming up strongly, this might be a far-fetched dream.