The U.S. national men’s team may do well at the upcoming World Cup finals. But the fact that they’re still an underdog is a testament to the strange class structure of U.S. football (or, if you prefer, soccer) that makes it different from the way the sport is organized in most other nations.
Consider the following: The women’s team has garnered many more international trophies (e.g., at the World Cup and the Olympics) than the men’s. The traditional sports media barely cover U.S. football, let alone the international game (although that seems to be changing, bit by bit). The game is played more widely (by girls and boys, in both urban and suburban areas, by whites and ethnic and racial minorities) and watched by more people (in the stadiums and on TV) than one would guess from the lack of media coverage (by white, male sports commentators). And there is no real farm system (as in other countries, with club academies and a proliferation of lower leagues) apart from colleges.
What this means, as Harry Browne explains, is that U.S. football is a much more white, middle-class and upper-class, suburban affair than in other countries. Such as France (where the national team is famously made up of North African immigrants and sons of immigrants). And Brazil (where many players are born in the favelas). And England (where it remains a sport of working-class players although, as I discovered at a match at Fulham’s Craven Cottage, of well-heeled fans).
That’s why the U.S. national team may, indeed, do well in South Africa—but only by beating all class expectations.