It has almost gone un-noticed, but the United States of America-- land of the free and home of many soccer haters-- has become a decent soccer nation. I must admit-- I played soccer in high school, and my 9 year-old son plays it as well (and, in his father's biased opinion, he is a decent goalkeeper)...
I played soccer at a time when the United States was not a good soccer nation. It was the early to mid-1980's... the NASL was crumbling, and there was no real league to pick up the pieces. If you wanted to play soccer at that time, you went indoors-- to play a game that was a hybrid of soccer and hockey. Mind you, I played indoor soccer some-- and it was, and is, fun-- not to mention a great workout. But it wasn't a lost cause-- the U-S Soccer Federation got its act together, and got a team that qualified-- against all odds-- for the 1990 World Cup. It was the first time in 40 years the U-S qualified for the Cup-- and the first of a current run of six Cup finals in a row, with a seventh almost a certainty for 2014.
Play in America has improved-- because MLS has done it right. They have cultivated home grown talent, and exported much of it to the European and Mexican leagues. The experience has led to stellar careers for goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan-- both in England, forward Clint Dempsey (England again), and Jozy Altidore (Holland last year, now in England)-- and others. Americans are playing in England, Germany, Holland, Norway, Sweden, and Israel-- and have played in Spain, Italy, France, Greece, and other European countries. They also play-- and star-- south of the border, in the Liga Mexicana. And yes, Major League Soccer has had its share of talent-- like Taylor Twellman, Chris Wondolowski, and Landon Donovan. There are others as well-- but those are just the first few I can think of right now.
Soccer clubs are also very profitable. The top sports club in the world? Sorry New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys-- that honor goes to Manchester United. Ask a Vietnamese kid who Robinson Cano is, and he would probably have no idea. But ask the average kid about David Beckham-- instant recognition. Man U has cultivated its image worldwide-- and it has made the Red Devils the most popular club in the world. But in a bow to the "Evil Empire," they have signed a co-marketing agreement with America's best-known sports brand. Kinds sounds like a sports version of "Despicable Me..."