Soccer has existed for hundreds of years. There are traces of early forms of its existence in the ancient civilizations of the Mayans and the Incas. There are centuries old records of organized teams in Europe. However, in the U.S. soccer is still a fairly new and continuously growing sport which corresponds with the U.S. not being a country with a long history. While soccer is the dominant sport worldwide it has struggled to take root throughout the history of the United States.
The earliest official record of an organized soccer team in the U.S is the Oneida Football Club. This club was formed by “Gerrit Smith Miller…in the fall of 1862, with R. Clifford Watson and a few other members of the Dixwell Private Latin School of Boston” after being dissatisfied with the inconstant rules with soccer (Lawrence 5). According to Bradshaw, during the 19th century schools had different rules and preferences on how to play soccer. Harvard and Yale early on preferred the version where the ball could be held and influenced other schools to use that style. Their influence reached the point to where the version of football (also known to Americans as soccer) involving only feet use in the collegiate level became almost non-existent. These variations of being able to hold the ball in schools led to the creation of rugby and American football. Later on “America’s strong desire to assert its cultural independence by developing sports of its own…” led to the increasing popularity of rugby, football, and baseball over soccer (Bradshaw 2).
An official book of soccer rules was finally published in the mid 1800’s. From this publication there came a clear differentiation between the version of soccer involving hands and not involving hands. The rule book was published by “Beadle & Company…in 1866 for ‘association football’, known as soccer and also for handling game (rugby).”(History) Now that soccer wasn’t popularly played in schools anymore the only thing keeping it from basically going extinct in the U.S. were the immigrants that wanted to preserve their customs and the “working-class communities, who were rapidly adopting the game, as the upper classes increasingly looked to rugby/gridiron.” (Gardner) After this the American Football Association was formed. According to Gardner this wasn’t a league but rather organized games and hosted the America Cup. From [year] to present day the formation and collapsing of various soccer leagues took place. One of the leagues was the North American Soccer League which could possibly be credited for the spark that revived soccer. The NASL brought Pelé (one of the best players to have ever played soccer and an icon is the world of soccer) out of retirement in 1974 to play for the New York Cosmos. This act skyrocketed the popularity of soccer in the U.S. and by the time Pelé officially retired in 1977 “…soccer had never been as popular as it was at that moment.”(Bradshaw 6)
After the retirement of Pelé, there was once again a decreasing popularity with soccer and teams struggled to bring and keep fans to fill their stadiums. As their last resort the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) placed a bid to host the 1994 World Cup. The hosting of the 1994 World Cup successfully helped interest Americans in soccer and led to the creation of the Major League Soccer (MLS). The MLS knowing what led to the failures of past soccer leagues decided to not make the same mistakes and therefore “advocated for a ‘single-entity’ league in which investors would buy into the MLS as a whole, as opposed to ownership of a single club.”(Bradshaw 8)