American soccer now has its greatest opportunity. If those who control this burgeoning game in the U.S. have the good sense and the enlightened self-interest to discipline themselves and to take a decent posture toward soccer, we may yet have a shot at international recognition in a game that, thanks to an accident in sporting history, passed us by.
The only catch: Those lines appeared in Sports Illustrated in March 1967. The two new professional leagues the magazine ballyhooed -- surely you remember the National Professional Soccer League and the United Soccer Association -- were stillborn a month later. Certainly they still loom large in the memories of TV cameramen, who every week had to come up with breathtakingly acute new camera angles to disguise the vast expanse of empty seats at the games. If you're one of the 870 fans who attended the match between the Chicago Spurs and the Los Angeles Toros in Chicago's 61,500-seat Soldier Field in June 1967, bring your ticket stub by the newspaper and I'll buy you an ice-cream cone.
If Sports Illustrated was the first to sample the soccer Kool-Aid, plenty of others have guzzled from the same pitcher over the past four decades. As the joke goes, soccer is America's sport of the future -- and always will be. Read my full op-ed column in Tuesday's Miami Herald.