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The United States Soccer Federation (USSF), commonly referred to as U.S. Soccer, is the official governing body of the sport of soccer in the United States. With headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, the FIFA member governs U.S. amateur and professional soccer, including the men's, women's, youth, futsal and Paralympic national teams. U.S. Soccer sanctions referees and soccer tournaments for most soccer leagues in the United States.
U.S. Soccer was originally known as the United States of America Football Association. It formed on April 5, 1913 and on August 15 of that year was accepted as one of the earliest member organizations of FIFA and the first from North and Central America. The affiliation was temporary and at the following year's FIFA Congress in 1914, the USFA, as it was abbreviated at the time, was accepted as a full FIFA member along with the Spanish federation. The governing body of the sport in the United States did not have the word soccer in its name until 1945, when it became the United States Soccer Football Association. It did not drop the word football from its name until 1974, when it became the United States Soccer Federation.
The most popular professional soccer team to start in the U.S. was known as the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL), with teams in the United States and Canada that operated from 1968 to 1984. The legendary Pelé was credited for starting major interest in the league after coming out of semi-retirement to sign with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL). Pelé single handedly was credited for the sudden world wide popularity & public awareness in soccer in the United States. The New York Cosmos were the 1st professional soccer team that was televised in the United States on ABC's Wide World of Sports. Pelé led the Cosmos to the 1977 NASL championship, in his third and final season with the club.
On October 1, 1977, Pelé retired in an exhibition match between his first and only Brazilian club called Santos vs the New York Cosmos. The game was televised in the United States on ABC's Wide World of Sports.Muhammad Ali and many other stars attended such as Bobby Moore. Pelé scored his final goal on a direct free kick in the first half. He did not play in the second half. Pelé's number 10 was retired.
U.S. Soccer had the honor of hosting the FIFA World Cup in 1994, the FIFA Women's World Cup in 1999 and 2003, and the Summer Olympics in 1984 and 1996. The women's national team has also had the distinction of winning two Women's World Cups in 1991 and 1999 (placing third in 1995, 2003, and 2007); the Olympic Gold Medal in 1996, 2004, 2008, and 2012; and seven Algarve Cups and six CONCACAF Women's Gold Cups.
The men's national team has had a less stellar history. It was invited to the inaugural World Cup in 1930 and qualified for the World Cup in 1934, finishing a respectable Third Place in 1930 out of 13 teams participating. In 1950 the United States scored one of its most surprising victories with a 1–0 win over heavily favored England, who were amongst the world's best sides at the time. The United States failed to reach another World Cup until an upstart team qualified for the 1990 FIFA World Cup with the "goal heard around the world" scored by Paul Caligiuri against Trinidad and Tobago, which started the modern era of soccer in the United States. The 1990 men's national team was quickly disposed of at the World Cup, but nonetheless had qualified for its first World Cup in 40 years. The FIFA Women's World Cup was inaugurated in 1991, and the women's national team became the first team to win the prize after beating Norway in the final. That tournament helped demonstrate the high caliber of play in women's soccer. It also set the stage for the United States to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup, setting total and average attendance records that still stand, including drawing 94,194 fans to the 1994 FIFA World Cup Final. The United States made a surprising run to the second round with a shocking victory over Colombia which saw Andrés Escobar, the player responsible for the United States' first goal (an own goal), later shot to death in his homeland. 1998 saw another disappointing addition to the history of the men's national team as it finished 32nd out of the 32 teams that qualified for the World Cup. This embarrassment, which included a total collapse of team chemistry and leadership, led to the firing of manager Steve Sampson and the hiring of Bruce Arena, who had won the first two MLS Cups in Major League Soccer history, and who went on to become the most successful United States men's national team manager in history.
The next year, the United States hosted the FIFA Women's World Cup for the first time. During their tournament run, the women's national team established a new level of popularity for the women's game, culminating in a final against China that drew 90,185 fans, an all-time attendance record for a women's sports event, to a sold-out Rose Bowl. After neither team scored in regulation or extra time, the final went to a penalty shootout, which the United States won 5–4. The celebration by Brandi Chastain after she converted the winning penalty, in which she took off her shirt, revealing her sports bra in the process, is one of the most famous images in the history of women's sports.
In 2002 Bruce Arena led a mix of veterans and MLS-seasoned youth to a quarterfinal appearance, dispatching contenders Portugal in group play and archrivals Mexico in the Round of 16, before losing a closely fought game with eventual Runners-Up Germany in the quarterfinal. Bruce Arena looked to match or surpass that feat in 2006; however, the U.S. team was drawn into a group of death with eventual Winners Italy and two other highly regarded teams in the Czech Republic and Ghana. The United States lost to the Czech Republic 3–0 in their opening game, drew Italy 1–1 in their second game (a match that saw two U.S. players and an Italian player red carded), and lost to Ghana 2–1. The United States did not advance out of the group however were the only team to face eventual winners Italy without losing. In the wake of the team's disappointing performance, Arena's contract was not renewed. Bob Bradley, Chivas USA manager and Arena's assistant manager with the men's national team, eventually succeeded Arena in 2007.
The U.S. Men's National Team qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, by virtue of its 3-2 road victory against CONCACAF rival Honduras on October 10, 2009. A 2-2 draw against Costa Rica on October 14, combined with a 2-2 draw between Mexico v. Trinidad and Tobago, meant the U.S. won the qualifying tournament outright. At the World Cup, America advanced from their group by way of defeating Algeria 1-0 on a stoppage time goal by Landon Donavan. The Americans also tied England 1-1 and Slovenia 2-2. In the Round of 16, the United States played Ghana, and fell 2-1 in extra time.
In 2003, U.S. Soccer opened their National Training Center at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California. The $130 million facility includes a soccer-specific stadium, home to the MLS teams Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. The facility is equipped with five full soccer fields (four grass and one artificial) for use by the MLS teams and U.S. Soccer. Both the senior and youth men's and women's United States National Teams hold camps at The Home Depot Center regularly.
The professional first-division league in the United States is Major League Soccer, which as of the upcoming 2012 season has 16 teams in the U.S. and three in Canada. The United Soccer Leagues (USL) are a collection of five leagues spanning the lower divisions of men's professional soccer, as well as women's soccer and youth soccer. Since 2011, the second-level league has been a new incarnation of the North American Soccer League (NASL). As of 2012, it has six teams on the U.S. mainland, one in Canada, and one in Puerto Rico (a U.S. possession with its own national federation). Previously, the USL First Division operated as the professional second-division league in the United States. However, a dispute among its teams and ownership led to the creation of the NASL, which applied for second division status. A compromise league, the USSF Division 2 Professional League operated in 2010 while the dispute was resolved. After the 2010 season, the USL folded its former First and Second Divisions into a new professional third-division league, USL Pro, that launched in 2011. At launch, it had 15 teams in all—11 on the U.S. mainland, three in Puerto Rico, and one in the Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda—but the Puerto Rican teams, plagued by ownership and economic issues, were soon dropped from the league. One mainland team folded after the 2011 season, leaving the league with 11 teams for the 2012 season. The fourth-division league in the United States is the USL Premier Development League, which as of 2012 is expected to have 69 U.S. teams, nine Canadian teams, and one Bermudan team. Though the PDL does have some paid players, it also has many teams that are made up entirely or almost entirely of college soccer players who use the league as an opportunity to play competitive soccer in front of professional scouts during the summer, while retaining amateur status and NCAA eligibility. In addition to MLS and the USL, the United States Adult Soccer Association governs amateur soccer competition for adults throughout the United States, which is effectively the amateur fifth-division of soccer in the United States. The USASA sanctions regional tournaments that allow entry into the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the oldest continuous national soccer competition in the United States. Since 1914, the competition has been open to all U.S. Soccer affiliated clubs, and currently pits teams from all five levels of the American soccer pyramid against each other each year, similarly to England's FA Cup.
Women's soccer in the United States has also been played at the professional level, but is no longer active as of 2012. The most recent attempt at a fully professional women's soccer league in the U.S., Women's Professional Soccer, first suspended its planned 2012 season and then folded completely in May of that year. The champion of WPS' first season in 2009 was Sky Blue FC, out of the New York–New Jersey area. They defeated the Los Angeles Sol 1–0 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California. WPS launched with seven teams, all based in the United States. The Sol folded after the league's inaugural season, and two new teams joined for 2010, bringing WPS to eight teams. However, the 2010 season saw considerable instability, with another charter team, Saint Louis Athletica, folding during the season, champions FC Gold Pride folding after the season, and the Chicago Red Stars deciding to regroup in the second-tier Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL). The 2011 season, in which six teams based along the East Coast played, was marked by low attendance for most of the season and conflict with Dan Borislow, who had purchased the former Washington Freedom, moved the team to South Florida, and renamed it magicJack. The dispute between WPS and Borislow led the league to suspend the magicJack franchise, with Borislow responding by suing. The legal battle led WPS to suspend its 2012 season, with hopes of returning in 2013, but WPS soon decided to fold completely.
Today, the top-level women's league is the semi-pro WPSL Elite, established by the WPSL as a response to the troubles plaguing WPS. It launched in 2012 with eight teams; five of these are fully professional, and three previously played in WPS (the Red Stars, Boston Breakers, and the final WPS champions, the Western New York Flash).
The second tier of women's soccer is occupied by two semi-professional leagues. The USL's W-League contains 30 U.S.-based teams and seven Canadian-based teams, while the independently operated WPSL has 63 teams in the U.S. only. Both leagues serve roughly the same purpose for women's soccer that the USL's PDL serves for men's soccer, in that they allow collegiate players to maintain NCAA eligibility while continuing to develop their game against quality opponents. There is no equivalent to the U.S. Open Cup in the women's game currently.
Despite the growth of men's and women's professional soccer in the United States in the last few decades, by far the largest category of soccer in the United States, at least in terms of participation, is boys and girls youth soccer. Though organized locally by organizations all over the United States, there are two main youth soccer organizations working nationwide through affiliated local associations. The United States Youth Soccer Association boasts over three million players between the ages of five and 19, while American Youth Soccer Organization has more than 300,000 players between the ages of four and 19. This makes soccer one of the most played sports by children in the United States.
The U.S. Soccer Federation also administers and operates the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which was first held in 1914.
|Youth Technical Director||Claudio Reyna|
|Director of Scouting||Tony Lepore|
|Director of Coaching Education||Dave Chesler|
|Women's Technical Director||April Heinrichs|
|Women's Development Director||Jill Ellis|