Updated: Sep 27, 2021
In recent years, soccer has gained popularity around the world. Millions of people enjoy the globe’s favorite sport both at the games and watching from the comfort of their own home. As an internationally followed sport, it is generally accepted that many of the best club teams are in Europe. Therefore, it makes the most sense that players there receive the largest paychecks and the games have the highest viewership. Additionally, they often hold the most internationally recognizable club contests and country competitions.
Soccer players from other parts of the world, such as Asia, Australia, The Americas, and Africa have dreams of gracing the pitch for club teams in Europe. Traditionally, North American and Australian soccer players make their way to England, African players, migrate to England and France (where they are familiar with the language), and South American players migrate to Spanish teams, where there are cultural ties with their country of origin.
Professional soccer players can compete at the highest levels for only so long as their bodies age and cannot perform at a level necessary to warrant the amount they make. In fact, you will often see players moving back to their homes towards the end of their careers, where they are largely welcomed with open arms as they had played such competitive soccer for many years. However, two outlier leagues that seem to be getting notable players and aging players.
These leagues are the Major League Soccer in the United States and Chinese Super League in China. The Chinese Super League has drawn the familiar names of Oscar, Hulk, and Carlos Tevez for sizeable sums. In the U.S., though many players came to America to play as they aged including Pelé, the player to have seemingly pioneered the move to the US was David Beckham. Having a Spice Girl as a wife and being able to bend the ball like no one else, he was able to draw the attention of tens of millions to MLS soccer. A few more players in recent years have followed suit, such as Frank Lampard, David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, Kaká, Didier Drogba, Steven Gerrard…
So where is this beautiful game going? As globalization (aka increased social media) takes hold, we will see the bridging of the gap, as more lucrative deals and sponsorship dollars disperse the top players out of their exclusivity in Europe.
Previously, only players from Europe and South America could have a chance for international glory. There have been increased funding and even new tax laws created to develop players at home rather than bringing in players from abroad. Money spent is the crucial factor for other nations improving their contention for international trophies. Where the money flows, the eyes go. The game is gaining astounding levels of popularity in the U.S. We are not too far off from seeing more money pumped into youth programs to allow American soccer players and teams to compete with the world’s elite.
Check out the book Soccer Positions to read more about the roughly 26 positions a coach can assign for a player on a team.