Importance of American soccer culture 

May, 11, 2011

For all the strides soccer has made in America over the last 20-plus years, even the most ardent backers of the beautiful game will admit that it's many decades away from becoming the nation's No. 1 sport -- if it ever gets there at all.

Not that it needs to, of course. In the United States' vast and vibrant athletic landscape, there will clearly be a big place for futbol alongside football, basketball and baseball as the country's changing demographics continue to push what was a niche game a short few years ago deep into the mainstream consciousness.

Still, the fact remains that soccer is the only sport that matters almost everywhere else on earth. And for the foreseeable future, that means a distinct disadvantage for a U.S. national team trying to compete against the Brazils, Italys and Germanys of the world.

That's why the creation of a true soccer culture -- even on a small scale at first -- is a huge part of the new U.S. Soccer coaching curriculum Claudio Reyna presented last month at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.