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The History of American Soccer

Whether you’re a diehard soccer fan or a weekend warrior for a travel team, the announcement of Copa America Centenario coming to the United States this summer is some of the most exciting news for North American soccer lovers since hosting the ’94 World Cup. We’ve compiled an overview of the United States’ soccer history to hype up the anticipation for this summer’s tournament.

Where it Kicked Off

The history of soccer in the United States stretches all the way back to colonial days in the settlement of Jamestown. Early soccer was a combination of kicking, throwing, and carrying of a ball, similar to the way rugby is played. Over time, soccer gained popularity on prestige college campuses, such as Yale, Columbia, and Harvard, where the first intramural match was played in 1827.

Soccer continued to grow and soon developed the reputation of being an elite upper-class game. As soccer became more popular across campus fields, each school practiced their own sets of rules. To fix this, a universal rule book was published in 1866. Soccer eventually spread to working class communities by the 1870s, largely New York City, Philadelphia, and parts of New Jersey.

Making it Official

As soccer continued to grow across the 50 states, amateur and professional teams began to pop up on fields. When the International Federation of Association Football was created in 1904, better known as FIFA, the United States wanted in. However, FIFA refused the U.S. membership request during their 1912 congress. This upset led to the creation of the United States Soccer Federation in April 1913. Only four months later in August, FIFA finally accepted the U.S. as the first member from North and Central America.

All Feet In

The United States Soccer Federation continues to oversee professional and amateur soccer, including men’s, women’s youth, futsal, beach, and Paralympic teams. It also regulates referees and recognized tournaments across the country. On a national level, the United States men’s and women’s teams have made progress on not only home fields, but on fields overseas, too.

The National Teams

The U.S. teams for men and women not only represent the country’s success in adopting soccer, but really bring out the sport’s presence across the 50 states and contribute to the sport’s history.

The U.S. Men’s National Team

The men made their debut in the first-ever World Cup in 1930. Four years later at the World Cup in Italy, the team finished third out of thirteen teams. They continued to shine a bright light on the future of American soccer with a surprising 1-0 victory over the favored English in 1950. A new era for modern soccer emerged in the United States during the 1989 World Cup qualifier, when player Paul Caligiuri scored the “shot heard around the world” against Trinidad and Tobago, giving the USA a 1-0 victory. This was the first time the men’s team qualified for the World Cup in 40 years. More recently, the men have participated in the ‘06, ‘10, and ‘14 World Cups, earning some wins and learning from losses.

The U.S. Women’s National Team

The ladies of the U.S. team have made pretty impressive moves on the field. Since soccer was seen as a male sport, women were originally restricted to gym classes and some college competitions in the first few decades of the 20th century. Despite the late start in the professional world, the U.S. women’s team has created the reputation of being one of the best in the world for women’s soccer.

The team’s participation in international events has led to awesome success when it comes to big-titled matches, such as the World Cup, the Olympics, and CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cups. The team captured a win over Norway in the first-ever 1991 FIFA Women’s World Championship. Women’s soccer was introduced in the ‘96 Olympic games, giving women a new platform in soccer and grabbed America’s attention. The team maintained FIFA’s Women’s World Rankings #1 spot from 2008-2014, and recently scored the title again after winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup. You go girls!

The USA and Copa: A New Match

The U.S. national teams have made their presence known on soccer fields all over the world. But get ready and grab your soccer scarf, because the world will be coming to us this summer.

With the news of Copa America Centenario choosing the USA as it’s host, soccer fans from all over the country are being given the opportunity to watch top-level talent close to home. Heck, it’s practically in our backyard! A new set of doors are being opened for the future of American soccer, and we’re looking forward to watching the game.

P.S. If you haven’t heard already, Diehard Scarves is an official partner of COPA America Centenario. We are hard at work designing a collection of over 35 soccer scarves! We will update this page with a link as soon as they are available.