Reading this Vanity Fair article this week about Generation X has had me thinking a lot about, well, generations. Of course, that thinking wandered into how American generations have impacted soccer.
When we talk about American soccer generationally, there are two massive truths. First, soccer in the United States arrived in unison with Baby Boom desires to buck the status quo. Baby Boomers, born in the wake of World War II between 1946 and 1964, have been one of America’s largest and most disruptive generations.
They were also America’s most affluent generation. They had both the spare change and the desire to try something different with their entertainment dollar, which meant in the 1970s and early 1980s, taking in an NASL soccer game. Fans of this generation did not switch allegiances from traditional sports like American football, baseball, hockey, or basketball. Instead, with extra money, extra leisure time, and clever planning by NASL officials to not compete directly with American football, they added soccer to the American sports landscape — or to clarify, the middle-class white sports landscape.
Soccer has of course been played for over 100 years in the United States in major cities with large immigrant populations. The NASL took the game, brought in the stars, and marketed it in a way that would appeal to mass American society. And they did it well, for a while. The fall of the NASL has been well documented, so I won’t go into the gory details, but the short version is the league over-expanded and overspent itself into the red. League officials anticipated the growth of American soccer, they just may have been a bit too eager to cash in.
The second generational group credited most with raising the American soccer profile is Millennials. Those who make up this generation, born between 1981 and 1997, have been seen as disrupters themselves, and credited with killing everything from boring middle-America chain restaurants to home ownership…