I recently came across this commentary (yes, moving slowly as I do) on the Center for Immigration Studies. http://cis.org/seminara/soccer
The author, David Seminara, states that the U.S. national soccer team is made up of a bunch of middle class white guys. Well, what he actually says is, “If soccer is the world’s sport, and America is the world’s leading beacon for immigrants around the globe, why aren’t immigrants making a bigger impact playing soccer for the Stars and Stripes?”
(The construction of this sentence, btw, is an example of a logical fallacy, as I recall from my days teaching beginning composition. But damned if I can recall which one…)
Anyway, Mr. Seminara states that almost all of the athletes on the U.S. national team were born in the U.S. and that many immigrant soccer players who grew up in the U.S. play in other countries instead of here. He asks why we have so many soccer loving immigrants but so few playing for the national team?
It’s a fair question to ask. But the answer is not–as Mr. Seminara hints in his essay–that the good immigrant players aren’t assimilating and chose to play elsewhere. It is also not, as suggested here, because of FIFA rules. And it is also not, as mentioned in the LA Progressive, because of immigration rules.
The U.S. national team does not have many immigrants on its roster because the path to soccer success in this country is through paid club teams. Unlike many other countries, the U.S. does not have a soccer farm system where professional clubs groom future stars in U-14 teams far away from school and family. The route to professional soccer player here begins with money and access to the high quality coaches and year-round games that come with joining a top-notch club team.
Immigrants have much higher rates of poverty than native-born Americans, are far less likely to have health insurance, and typically come from families without much education. So, while the desire to play soccer is there, as we have seen in the growth and popularity of soccer in high schools across the country, the ability to pay for club dues, and the control over one’s own time (can mom skip work to ferry you to practice?), are not.
Young Latino immigrant soccer players, who might flourish with a good coach in an organized club team, end up playing in amateur men’s league games after the high school season is over. Unlike club tournaments, the men’s league competitions are not crawling with professional and college scouts. So the boys don’t get the help they need, don’t get noticed, and either leave the U.S. for futbol opportunities elsewhere, or quit playing.
Either way, our national team is what it is not because of poor assimilation, but because of money.