Umbro athlete Jeb Brovsky discusses the rise of the American soccer player from MLS’ inception to the international respect many are demanding on the world stage today.
We are the rebels. We are the misfits. Despite being raised in a culture that values every other sport, we are the roses that grew from the concrete. The successful multi-sport athletes who chose to play soccer because our passion, athleticism and resiliency overpowered our love for baseball cards and billboards. This is the abbreviated tale of all the kids who grew up being told, “Soccer just isn’t America’s sport. There isn’t any financial future in it. You were born in the wrong country.”
On this side of the pond, soccer is the game that everyone played as a child but didn’t take seriously enough to make it a career. “Baseball, Football and Basketball will make you rich. Go for those, kid.” The past few generations of American players have excelled in this oddball sport in spite of the notion that the professional level in the United States just isn’t as developed as others around the world.
The pioneers in the early days of Major League Soccer lived in their parents’ stale basements and commuted to training in hand-me-down minivans. To them, financial stability wasn’t of prime importance let alone international notoriety. These competitors were fighting the uphill, righteous battle of relevance on the domestic and international stage of soccer. They were building something greater than themselves and laying the foundation for future growth.
I grew up watching my local idols like Wes Hart, Chris Henderson and Joe Cannon play for the Colorado Rapids, who all earned mere peanuts playing in front of a scantly filled Mile High Stadium. Freddy Adu became a teenage hero and paved the way for youth players, like myself, to dream that we could be something more than just high school stars. Landon Donovan was the trailblazer for Olympic Development Players (ODP) who didn’t make their State teams yet still strived for international recognition someday. These are the true colonizers of the great American soccer frontier.
Fast-forward to today, it’s as if each U.S. player wears a “Don’t Tread On Me” sign on their jerseys right next to the chip on their shoulder. Americans are now considered footballers rather than soccer players. And Christian Pulisic isn’t just a stud from Pennsylvania who is winning State Championships but is instead competing in Champions League quarterfinals. We have by no means made it but we are on our way.
The soccer landscape is undoubtedly changing for Americans and the rising level of international respect is beginning to reflect it. American players should never lose reverence for the past and always aspire to forge greater paths for future generations. Worldwide skepticism about our true quality must consistently fuel the fire for advancement while holding us steadfast to our humility. Indeed, it is the one thing that makes us truly American.