Over the past weekend, one of the most incredible feats in sports was accomplished, and most likely, you hardly heard anything about it. Futbol Club Barcelona forward and Argentinian National Team captain Lionel Mess, known to the world simply as Messi, became the youngest footballer in soccer history to score 200 career La Liga goals with a 4-goal effort on Sunday to put his total at 202 and counting. Why is this feat so astonishing you ask? Because it took Messi four less years than the previous record holder. At the ripe young age of 25, we are witnessing the career and era of possibly the greatest player to ever step on the pitch.
The game of soccer, or football as it’s known to the world outside the United States, is not at the forefront of the American sporting scene. However, soccer has become the fastest growing sport among youth in the U.S. According to a survey conducted by ESPN in 2012, soccer is now the second most popular sport among Americans ages 12-24 and events in recent years have done nothing but help grow the game in the states.
Take the efforts of England’s David Beckham for instance. Quite possibly the most recognizable soccer player in the world and one of the most recognizable athletes in general, made the move to play in the United States professional league, the MLS in 2007. Beckham’s influence has grown attendance and helped improve a fan base across the league.
Still, the best way to grow the sport in America and put the USA on the international map will be a successful men’s national team. In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the USA advanced past group play and into the knockout round in a way even Spielberg couldn’t dream up. It was just the second trip to the knockout round for the USA and created patriotism rivaling the days of the Revolutionary War. And while the incredible success of the Women’s National Team has certainly helped growth, the men’s leagues still move the needle and only then will the USA move up in stature.
On Feb. 6, the USA begins the final stages of 2014 World Cup qualification in the first of 10 matches throughout 2013. So why not don the red, white, and blue and get a group huddled around the computer next Tuesday or around the television on March 22nd and cheer on a team stocked and mixed with experience and young talent. Who knows, maybe America’s Messi could be in this group of players just waiting to make his mark.