From Fallen Boys to Contenders: US Doing Cruel Business Against England in Group B Match

“Football is coming home,” they sing to the tune of Skinner and Baddiel’s classic.

This is the chant favored by American fans before a World Cup match when they make fun of their English rivals.

We heard it from the crowd watching the University of Maryland play Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The joke, of course, is the replacement of the word “football” with “football” – for British listeners, this is a lyric that could only be written with a fingernail on a blackboard.

In terms of fan support, they are on the soft end of the scale, far from terraced exhaustion in the country where the game started. Some cultural traditions seem to take longer to transmit.

American football is football, but not quite the way it is known in the UK, certainly not the way we speak it.

Here the players “twist and burn”, wear “cleats” on their feet, not boots; take “PC”, not a penalty and, yes, take liberties with the very name of the game.

From fall guys to rivals

Like it or not, the US men’s team has come a long way. They are autumnal rival boys in a sport that America discovered late.

As the game has grown around the world, it has competed for a place in a crowded sports market that has been supplanted by American football, baseball, basketball, and more.

American male football players have long been in the shadow of the country’s women’s team. They are a sports superpower and multiple World Cup winners (a record four times).

The women’s game reaped the benefits of a college system that attracted many of the nation’s top female athletes to football scholarships while their male counterparts leaned towards more traditional U.S. sports.

The U.S. Football Hall of Fame at Dallas Football Club houses an exhibit reminiscent of the 1950 World Cup match when the American men famously beat England 1-0.

It was such a shock that they made a movie called Wonder Match about it. Seventy-two years later, there would be nothing magical about a US victory over England in Qatar.

Read more:
Who was predicted to win the World Cup?

Men’s football took off

After a clumsy journey to the established football system, the US men’s team is ranked 16th in the world.

FC Dallas President and Chairman Dan Hunt spoke to Sky News about how the men’s game has grown domestically.

He said, “The success of American football really goes back to 1994. The World Cup here in the United States has launched a new generation of men’s players.

“The women’s match was already successful and going well, but the excitement and energy that brought a really new impetus to football in this country.

“It was a story of fits, starts and stops. You look at the big victory over England in 1950, which was such a starting point, and then we actually went into darkness for 40 years between 1950 and 1990.

“The old NASL (North American Football League) has come and gone. The promise we had to make as a country was to create a professional first division league and that is what breathed life into MLS (Major League Soccer).

“The first years in MLS were incredibly difficult, but for me the most important moment was the 2002 World Cup, when the US team did very well with several MLS players.

“Some had already gone overseas and had success in Europe, but that was really the foundation because just a year earlier MLS was talking about going out of business and that was the little boost we needed.

“Since then, MLS has really taken off.”

Read more:
USA and Wales share points in the first match of the World Cup

While the academies of football clubs in America are becoming more and more purveyors of top-level sports, the college system still provides a path to the professional game.

The University of Maryland is a talent-producing hub, with graduates from its scholarship program participating in the last five world championships.

Sasho Kirovski is a varsity coach whose career spanned decades of growth in American football.

He told Sky News: “The American college system is unique in the world. This is the only place in the world where you can combine high level academics with high level football in a residential setting with amazing facilities.

“You are ready to deal with homelessness, you are ready to deal with performance expectations.

“You’re under heavy media scrutiny, you’re being challenged by coaches, and you’re surrounded by players who also want to be high-level professionals and win championships. So, when you have a support network where you can grow and you can flourish, it allows players to realize their dreams.

“We have a big advantage in this country as we can observe, gain experience and learn from other sports. There is character and competitiveness in the American athlete – a winning mentality, resilience that is nurtured across sports.

“For a long time we had to learn by watching the Bundesliga or the English Premier League – now we can see it in our own country. But we can also see this in other sports as well, so there’s a wide range of knowledge around you that really shows you what it takes to be great.”

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