The default presumption of most people analyzing the USA soccer ecosystem is that the country does not possess a very large soccer culture. However, there are are number of facts and figures which promptly dispel the “soccer is a small sport in America” myth, such as USA’s 24 million soccer player population total (1 of every 14 people in the country). USA indeed has all of the necessary ingredients to be a powerhouse soccer nation, but there is an ugly truth that underpins USA soccer’s inability to leverage this potential: The U.S. Soccer governing federation upholds closed-system policy which discriminates against millions of people and thousands of clubs in USA soccer. This discriminatory policy impacts USA’s ethnic and minority populations the most.
Is this structural racism and discrimination created and upheld intentionally? One would tend to think that leaders and fans within USA soccer do not truly intend to harm others, but the insistence of some to preserve this closed system really does start to amplify doubts. The good news is that USA is one promotion/relegation policy change away from correcting this problem. A promotion/relegation system would provide fair opportunity for millions of people and thousands of clubs in the USA soccer ecosystem. The creation of this opportunity is not just about sport, it extends to the social and economic realms as well (think GDP, jobs, community pride, and positive youth opportunity). Soccer is not just a game, it is also an industry just like any other. Real livelihoods are at stake in this battle, not just trophies and prestige. It is time to cut ties with the toxic status quo of USA soccer.
In an ironic twist, the leaders and apologists behind the U.S. soccer and MLS/SUM closed-system cartel claim to be head over heels diversity in inclusion. Sadly, it seems that most of this “fight for inclusion and equality” only takes priority when profit and marketing opportunities are at stake. When will this U.S. soccer federation start fighting to create real-life equality and opportunity structures instead of just paying lip service for its own gain? The U.S. Soccer Federation of today is built upon a foundation of closed-system discrimination. If one claims to stand for equality and opportunity, then they will not comply with, and uphold closed-system policy which denies fair opportunity for millions of people in the USA soccer ecosystem.
What is the depth and nature of the massive soccer population that U.S. Soccer leadership is shunning? USA has 30 different ethnic groups with populations that exceed 1 million people. Stop and think about the booming levels of culture, diversity, skill, and passion that the future USA soccer open system will have once the ecosystem is opened to all. USA soccer would truly embody the American “melting pot” ideal with clubs representing cultures from every corner of the globe. Furthermore, USA’s Latino-American demographic of 58 million people represents 18% of the country’s total population (330 million). In a normal, open system, many of USA’s greatest soccer clubs would be built around Latino culture. The composition of the U.S. men’s and women’s national team pools would also reflect this. It would be safe to wager that USA’s Latino population represents the majority demographic when it comes to quantifying segments of the nation’s total soccer population. USA’s African-American and Asian-American demographics would also reflect accurately as large portions of the USA soccer population under an open system.
Would promotion/relegation policy forever eradicate all instances of discrimination, failure, and missed opportunity in USA soccer? No, but #ProRelforUSA policy does not promise utopia. If no policy change can create 100% perfection, does that mean that USA soccer should scrap policy efforts that would elevate it to 85-95% perfection? Absolutely not. USA soccer can do so much better than an extremely unpopular USSF/MLS closed system that caters primarily to a rich, white, suburban demographic. It is time to leverage USA soccer’s gigantic and diverse soccer potential through a free-market system that provides fair opportunity for all people and clubs. No more waxing poetic about virtues and ideals. It is time to take the obvious and tangible step of opening the USA soccer ecosystem.
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