The question of soccer in America slowly being answered |

The question of soccer in America slowly being answered

Jason Starr

With the end of the World Cup today, there is hope of a new beginning for soccer in the United States.

The Americans’ surprising run to the round of eight and their stellar play against Germany have raised the possibility of a changed dynamic between the American public and the world’s favorite sport.

The groundwork is already laid. Momentum from the 1994 World Cup helped form Major League Soccer in 1996. The league has struggled with unprofitability and small television ratings since then. The U.S. Team’s ugly showing at the ’98 World Cup did not help.

But the American soccer bandwagon slowly grew over the course of this year’s tournament. And with most of the U.S. team playing in the MLS, the league figures the time is ripe for its dream of becoming the fifth major American sport to come true.

This year’s World Cup has already helped spark a charge in the sport’s prominence in Summit County. The local soccer scene has never been so vibrant.

Part of the credit goes to the new High Country Soccer Association and its founder Amy Machin-Ward. Whereas many people who move here are ski bums; Machin-Ward is a soccer bum.

She tapped a dormant soccer community in Summit County, part of the first generation of Americans to grow up in youth soccer leagues. They are here – and with a little prodding from Machin-Ward and inspiration from a band of Americans crashing the world soccer stage this month – they are returning to the game, both as spectators and players.

The Summit County women’s team, which has been an on-and-off entity since its beginnings about 10 years ago, is at a robust 26 players this summer. There are still some issues with getting a full squad to travel to tournaments, however.

“Some years, we haven’t had a team,” said coach, manager and player Taylor Hawes. “Hopefully we’ll keep it organized and going all summer. I want to get it established for future years.”

In Frisco, a new travelling men’s team is starting to form. It is still finalizing a summer schedule but plans to travel to Glenwood Springs, Colorado Springs and maybe Telluride for tournaments this season.

In Breckenridge, Kim McGahey’s 23-year-old squad is fielding one of its strongest teams in years. McGahey’s love for and dedication to soccer has been a constant force in the community for more than two decades. Now, it seems, the rest of the county is catching up with him.

“It’s rewarding to see the rest of the country and community share the immersion in it that we’ve had all the time,” McGahey said. “And I’m glad to see High Country has made it possible for these other teams to get organized.”

High Country also has started a Wednesday night adult league that includes about 200 players in this, its first year.

The task now is to guard against fizzle. It’s been easy this summer to get people’s minds on soccer. But will many people wonder about the MLS championship come October? Will the players who carried the U.S. to its best modern-day World Cup finish fade back into obscurity? Will the mystery of why youth soccer is so prominent in America, yet there aren’t enough fans to make a professional league viable ever be solved?

Will the Summit County women’s team be able to field a full squad next summer?

These are questions for the soccer lovers of America and Summit County to answer. This summer has provided some positive clues.

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