U.S. players are better than you think

we're coming up on October, where baseball will be in its heyday, and just like every American, I'm looking forward to the World Series, even though I still think they should rename it, since the rest of the world isn't really involved.

The next most popular sport in the USA -- maybe THE most popular sport -- right now is basketball. This is a sport where we are clearly the best in the world, right? Maybe our best players just can't play in Greece. The NBA has become a souped-up version of street ball, with fancy lights, loud music, expensive concession stands, and a direct line to the just-as-popular world of hip-hop music. Forget the fact that middle-class America is growing more disinterested with the NBA due to the fact that you can't bring your kids any more and sit within 20 rows of the game without being subjected to the kind of language that should have no part in professional sports. By the way, if you do choose to go with your kids, the price of the tickets will most likely make it a once-in-a-year trip. My guess is you'll be left disappointed.

Hockey is in trouble. Whether or not the NHL lives through this owners lockout remains to be seen, but they are living proof that the secret to a successful league is steady growth. Over-expansion, an unrealistic TV deal, and ridiculous salaries are all leading to the demise of the NHL, not to mention that fact that in the most recent world championship, the USA was awful, and as usual, relied on our neighbors to the north to make us proud. Let's face it: if we didn't have an NHL, they wouldn't even invite us to the world championship. OK, maybe that's a little extreme, but the state of hockey in America, as far as the players go, is not good.

As for soccer in the USA, let's take into consideration that our league is not yet a decade old, and we do have our fair share of problems -- no one is denying that. The other sports in this country are far better received by the public, but I hope this country starts to look at things at face value because either they're too expensive or we're not charging enough. This is where we should all remind ourselves the secret is steady growth, and that is something we don't have to worry about. Where they can only hope to get better or keep things where they are, soccer in USA is getting better every day. So we're seventh in the world. In the real world, that's not too bad.

Former U.S. international forward Eric Wynalda scored the first goal in MLS history, and is currently the analyst on RadioShack's Soccer Saturday on ESPN2. He can be reached at takingshots@hotmail.com. He will be inducted in the National Soccer Hall of Fame during the Oct. 9-11 weekend. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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