Sports: Messi, Ronaldo, and American Soccer
As a long time soccer fan, I've seen the great ones come and go. 99.9% of them have played in Europe pm club and national teams. The great ones like Zidane, Cruyff, and many more changed the game. But in the United States, soccer still fights to be a top tier sport along with the National Basketball Association, National Football League, and Major League Baseball.
The evolution of American soccer is greatly influenced by Major League Soccer also known as the MLS. The league has expanded and grown to sustainability that many doubted could have been attained in the United States. Yet, with the help of strategically placed franchises and players, the MLS has seen steady growth. But still, they do not have many homegrown stars if any.
If you go to any recreation or travel soccer game in America and ask the children to name some MLS players they would probably look at you blankly then say Landon Donovan. Here in America, we do not have true soccer stars. We do have some great soccer players, such as Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, and Tim Howard, but we have no transcendental stars.
So what is a transcendental star? Think Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Alex Rodriguez. These stars transcend their sport. Their greatness goes beyond what they do on the field. They are commercial as well as cultural icons. This is why Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are critical to the growth of American soccer.
Why? It's real simple. They are young. They are incredibly skilled. They transcend sports into pop culture.
Yes Ronaldo and Messi are on bitter rivals, Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, but if you go to any soccer field and ask the children if they know who Messi and Ronaldo are, you will see their eyes light up. You will probably start an argument as to who is the better player, and most of all you will unleash a passion in the children that no American player can yet do.
Messi makes blistering runs into the box that we have not seen since Diego Maradona. Yet, he has still to reach his peak. Cristiano Ronaldo combines speed, power, and instinct on the wings like no other player on Earth. It's not just that he scores goals, but that he is also very commercial. He is known and seen throughout the world.
This kind of celebrity in MLS is non-existent. Maybe one day we will have our own homegrown players that our children will look up to and emulate, but for now, it's fine to have them take the soccer ball into the backyard, pretend to be thirty five yards from goal, sit back like Cristiano in a gunslinger pose, and smash the ball with every intent of moving it into the upper ninety.
Messi and Ronaldo are bitter rivals. But whether
they know it or not, they are accelerating the game of soccer in the United
States with every run into the box, through ball, and goal they take part in.
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