Bright Future For U.S. Melting Pot Youth
It took a surprisingly long time for it to register with my kids that they spoke a different language to their English parents.
They called my wife mom and wrote color instead of colour. They put their school bags in the trunk instead of the boot and looked aghast when we assumed they had an embarrassing accident when they decided to change their pants.
It took them five minutes to assimilate into the American culture and start calling things awesome rather than brilliant while my wife and I still cling onto our cups of PG Tips tea in the afternoons and fight desperately to avoid sounding like Dick Van Dyke.
All of which is a long way of saying that our three kids may hold dual citizenship, but they are really Americans. They will watch the World Cup (men’s and women’s) and root for England, but they only really do it to keep us happy. They’re Americans; they support the U.S.
This is a scenario reflected in immigrant families across the country.
While the passion for soccer is passed down through generations, old loyalties are slowly breaking down and being diluted.
It is a reason I am convinced a genuine superstar – the next Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi – is quite likely to be learning the game through a melting pot perspective somewhere in the U.S. right now.
Nobody is embracing the concept more forcefully than U.S. team boss Jurgen Klinsmann. He has unashamedly pursued products of the traditionally superb youth soccer system in his native Germany for any young players with even a hint of U.S. ancestry.
But he will not have to look so far afield in the very near future. The greater the U.S. success grows – and this goes for women as well as men - the more likely it is that the son of a Mexican or El Salvador first generation immigrant, for example, will want to support for the country he grew up in, not the nation his parents left behind to seek a better life.
Several key members of the U.S. Gold Cup squad - Ventura Alvarado, Greg Garza, Alejandro Bedoya and Omar Gonzales – are the children of immigrants who have pinned their loyalties to the Stars and Stripes.
More will come, I’m sure of it. The coaching system is improving exponentially and the youth recruiting is becoming more inclusive.
This makes perfect sense as the one thing you can’t teach a footballing nation is tradition. It takes time. That is, unless you embrace the U.S.-born children hailing from countries with a long and passionate historical connection to the game that America has taken so long to truly identify with.
There are still regions that ignore this immense potential, focusing on the Caucasian player with the talent but not the nous. This may come down to money – those running college and club soccer don’t necessarily look too hard in the immigrant neighborhoods where there is often immense talent coupled with precious little opportunity.
As much as I enjoyed the U.S. women’s team’s World Cup success in Canada, I didn’t see a great diversity in the roster.
I do believe the US men have a very real chance of winning the 2022 World Cup, whether it’s played in Qatar or Timbuctoo.
America’s day will come…and it will be because of a more inclusive policy by the people that run the game that will reflect the generational change that has drawn the sons and daughters of immigrants under the flag of their country of birth.