Lionel Messi Is Good At Soccer, The U.S. Is Not, And That’s Okay

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If I know sports talk tv/radio/internet/twitter like I think I do, then we’re in for a heavy dose of “WHAT IF OUR BEST ATHLETES PLAYED SOCCER?” talk today.

Hot take here… but I just don’t care anymore.

I just can’t work up the energy to have this whole U.S. Soccer debate every time we lose.

The reality of the situation is that it’s going to take more time for the U.S. to get good at soccer than most of us expect. Because even if we take the fifteen best child athletes in the U.S. and forced them to play soccer, it’s not that easy. There’s more that goes in to soccer–to basically every sport–than having the most athletic team. There’s skill that you need to be properly taught and athletic IQ that needs to be honed. There’s an understanding of the game, of ball movement, of timing. We’re already more physically athletic than 90% of the teams we play and yet we still suck… theres a reason for that.

Does having elite athletes play soccer from a young age help? Sure. But until the world’s best coaches are coming here to develop players from a young, young age like they do everywhere else, there’s no getting over that hump. And until soccer is important enough in American culture — a culture where it still has to compete directly with football and lacrosse and somewhat less directly with basketball, hockey, and baseball — then those coaches and developers don’t really have much of an incentive to leave their soccer-centric countries. So yeah… it’s going to take a while.

That’s the reality of it. That’s been the reality of the situation for a while now. And you know what… I’ve come to terms with that.

Yet every year, with every new different Cup of the World Euro America COPA Friendly Tournament whatever, this whole argument continues to come up.

“We just need one!” “Just one Russle Westbrook needs to pick soccer at age 10 and stick with it!” “One superstar and that’ll be the turning point for American soccer!”

And hey, maybe that does speed up the process… who knows?

I just can’t keep having this same conversation.

I like soccer. I enjoy watching it. It’s a nice, tight 105 minute watch. It’s fun to gamble on. It can have you on the edge of your seat. It can be absolutely exhilarating. It’s great.

I’m gonna keep following Liverpool (#YNWA). I’m gonna wake up hungover and bet on a few Premier League games on weekend mornings before football starts. I’m gonna enjoy the occasional 2:45 in the afternoon big Champions League or Euro League or BPL game during the week. And if the U.S. one day does actually catch up to the world in soccer, that’s be fantastic.

But I’m not gonna force myself to have these “IF ONLY THE BEST ATHLETES PLAYED SOCCER” talk every time we lose to a clearly superior team like Argentina and Lionel fucking Messi. I can’t spend the next 20 years having the same exact conversation about soccer every time the USMNT plays. I just don’t care any more.

I’ll watch the games. I’ll enjoy rooting for America and all the American pride and the unity and everything that comes with it. I’ll hopefully win some money. But let’s just let American soccer be and stop dragging out this same “OUR BEST ATHLETES DON’T EVEN PLAY SOCCER” argument. Because it’s not changing any time soon.


P.S.   You can’t just pluck a great athlete like Lebron or Westbrook and say “we’ll train them in soccer for a year and they’ll dominate”. That’s a dumb argument. But, like, at the same time… I’m still 100% convinced Odell could walk on the pitch this afternoon and immediately be the best player in U.S. soccer history.


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