Football USA: A New Football Rising

Senior Captain Gabe Vasconcelos looks up the field.

The WJ boys’ varsity soccer team excelled throughout the fall season, making it all the way to the regional championships before losing to Magruder High School.

The boys’ team has had a fantastic past four years, always pleasing fans with great wins and playoff runs. It is arguable that boys’ soccer is the most popular sport at WJ, besides football. But, it may be safe to say that football is popular merely out of tradition, while soccer is popular because people are learning to love it. The fact that the boys’ soccer team continues to win is also helping to boost the sport’s popularity at WJ. But why does soccer’s popularity continue to grow, not only at WJ, but also worldwide?

Gabe Vasconcelos, senior captain of WJ’s boys varsity soccer team, says that soccer “is a great way to meet new people.” He also describes it as a “lad’s game.”

The boys’ team’s growing fan base can be attributed to its continued success.

“During my time at WJ, ever since the class of 2014 arrived, WJ soccer has been on top of its soccer game,” said Vasconcelos. “The teams that this school has produced over the last four years are ridiculous. And these games are fun to watch. There’s constant movement and creativity and, yes, WJ soccer wins a lot of games. I don’t think soccer gets more fans than football, but the amount of fans that soccer has received over the past number of years is insane. And it’s much higher compared to other schools. Students like to see their fellow Wildcats win games, celebrate and go far in playoffs.”

Despite soccer’s extreme popularity at WJ, as far as national popularity goes, it’s still not quite there yet. American football still dominates the hearts and minds of many, and the MLS is nowhere near the status of European leagues.

Vasconcelos has hope, however.

“I think soccer will continue to gain popularity in the U.S. It’s too renowned and fun for it not to,” he said. “I just know that it will.”

Whether playing with friends in the park or in the World Cup final, soccer has the power to build lifelong friendships and a lasting sense of belonging and purpose.

Soccer is unique due to the fact that it crosses all geographic, ethnic and religious boundaries. While almost everyone on this planet knows of, plays or has watched others play soccer, aside from goals scored and long-standing team rivalries, rarely do people hear about the more important value and ability for this and other sports to cause positive social change, like soccer has during its rich history.

According to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the organization promotes the sport of soccer, or football, “by developing the game around the world and bringing hope to those less privileged.” This is what they “believe is the very essence of fair play and solidarity.”

Soccer’s worldwide popularity can be explained by many factors, namely the simplicity of the game and the minimal equipment requirement. Soccer can be played in the poorest of conditions or the nicest of pitches. It does not matter if you have bare feet or the nicest Nike boots, because soccer is still the same game and it reaches everyone. FIFA states that “the broad range of competitions shows the many faces of football.”

The fact is that far more people play soccer than any other sport, according to, a sports blog written by college students across the US. More people play soccer than play basketball, baseball, American football, tennis, and golf combined.

In most other sports, you win or you lose. But in soccer it can end in a tie. If you dream of being an Olympic athlete, football is not the sport for you. Though football was featured in the 1932 Summer Olympics as a demonstration event, the International Olympic Committee has yet to accept football as an Olympic sport. However, soccer has been a regular feature of the Olympics since 1900. Soccer players don’t need the physical strength of football players. Athleticism and fitness are important, but you don’t need to be physically imposing to play soccer.

Some of the world’s top players, such as Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona, rely only on skill and creativity rather than strength and how tall you are. This makes soccer a more widespread sport than football, for both men and women. The two most costly items are soccer cleats and a ball, and neither need to be overly expensive. A jersey, shorts and shin guards are the only other requirements. Football players must buy a large number of protective items for competitive play. Football is a stop-start game with frequent pauses between each play. Soccer is a more fluid sport, which is an aspect that appeals to many fans and players.

Soccer also lacks an element that appeals more greatly to Americans than Europeans: violence. American football and mixed martial arts, two popular American sports, are based on violent aspects. Tackling, punching, hitting are all core values of these contact sports.

Soccer also relies on a different beauty, said sophomore Malcom Djeko.

“Ever since I touched the ball I fell in love with it, I play it because its so easy to love and easy to pick up,” he said. 

Djeko is of Cameroonian descent and cherishes his background.

“I feel very strongly towards Cameroon, I was born there and dream of playing for the national team,” said Djeko.

He enjoys watching the American team, but feels no direct connection to it personally.

“They can be fun to watch and they are [often on TV], but the style of play is not as beautiful to me,” he added.

Soccer players, like their fans, favor certain styles of play. Some like slow build ups with many passes and some like quick hitting shots. This deeper beauty is what attracts fans. For a player to make it to a high level, he must be highly skilled in so many attributes of his game; from passing, to handling, to shooting, to touch. Soccer, like life, reflects the American dream. Any man can go from peasantry to fame on the pitch.