David Beckham is not the most famous player to grace a soccer field in America.
He may be the most well-known in recent times but go back to the seventies and look at the galaxy of stars that boosted the popularity of the game in the U.S.
Let’s start with the best known of all, a certain Mr Edson Arantes do Nascimento better known to you and me as Pele. He played for the New York Cosmos 40 years ago.
The list of world famous soccer players who ended their careers in the States is very impressive. Such stars would have made a World XI when they were in their prime.
Franz Beckenbauer, George Best, Bobby Moore, Eusebio and Johann Cruyff who all graced the world’s greatest stadiums at some point in their career made the flight across the pond.
They brought their unique personalities to the game and gave soccer in the States the publicity it badly needed. Participation in a sport lagging well behind baseball, football, basketball and ice-hockey began to increase.
These were the true pioneers of soccer in America whose standing in the world FIFA rankings is now 27 in the men’s game and second in the women’s.
And there lies the link. America’s current status as a leading soccer nation began long ago by the seventies superstars of soccer.
Pele and company reminded Americans that there was something out there other than the ballpark. The likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard coming over to display their talents in L.A. and New York will add further interest in soccer.
Participation rates will increase even more and who knows, some proud American may well be holding up the World Cup trophy in the not to distant future?