Soccer Is Here To Play
I, like many of you, grew up playing soccer as a kid. I feel like it was always the one sport every child played, no matter what your athletic ability. And that was the beauty of the sport, right? It wasn’t about size or strength. It was about getting on that field and having no fear that the stronger girl may dominate you. Perhaps it was because you could run faster. Or you could just run the wrong way.
God bless my parents for taking so many ridiculous videos of me being pretty useless on the field, but always looking so proud by the end of the game. Plus, those uniforms were pretty dope.
But that was it. After a few years playing soccer for the neighborhood team, it wasn’t really a sport I thought about much as a teenager and beyond. It didn’t really seem like an “American” sport.
So, with the news of FIFA World Cup 2026 coming to North America, I had to wonder, was soccer actually gaining popularity in the US?
It seems as though the answer is unquestionably yes.
With the dominance of the women’s national team at World Cup tournaments, the MLS expansion set to continue to include 29 teams (and potentially more), bigger brands jumping on board as sponsors, and an overall stronger connection between the fans and the sport, it looks like soccer is here to play…and stay.
I got a chance to catch up with my friend Akash Jain, VP of Strategy and Planning for Major League Soccer. We talk about how FIFA World Cup 2026 coming to North America will be the perfect (hopefully) post-pandemic celebration, why historically soccer (or football, calm down) hasn’t been popular in the US, how the National Women’s Soccer League reached an equal pay settlement (clapping, again) and why going to a live game may turn you into a fan.
Akash also talks about his journey opening up the first NBA offices in India, how he feels about his 5 years in Bombay growing the NBA, and we exchange a few expat India stories that may include a white tiger and Dwight Howard. Because, why not?
Speaking of FIFA World Cup, I just realized how many epic World Cup songs there have been in the past.
My fav….I had to go with my girl Shakira. What’s yours?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the following news in the world of soccer-
Last week, FIFA, the world soccer’s global governing body, suspended Russia from all competitions, which effectively means that Russia is out of World Cup 2022 qualifying. U.S. Soccer has also taken a stand against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, along with numerous soccer federations around the world, and released a statement with the hashtag “#WeStandWithUkraine” while declaring that they will not take the field against Russia in any competition “until freedom and peace have been restored.”
The soccer world lost a shining star last week in a tragic suicide. Katie Meyer, who was Stanford’s soccer team captain and also just months away from graduation, was found in her undergraduate dorm room unresponsive. Her family speculates she held a lot of “anxiety and stress to be perfect, to be Number 1." My heart is broken for her parents, family, and friends.
May she rest in peace.