World Cup Meets Melting Pot: Immigrant Strength on U.S. Team

At least where soccer is concerned, America is making progress. Not that long ago, it was still a niche sport here – another offering to round out the phys ed curriculum, but a far cry from national pastimes like baseball and football. Soccer seemed always to suffer under the stigma of its purported “foreignness” and the mystery of why, in other countries, even recreation-league teams could play it dazzlingly well, while only a handful of U.S. athletes really mastered the game. Thankfully, that dynamic is changing. Over the years, soccer has gained in popularity in the United States, and little by little, we have created a pipeline for the development of world-class soccer talent.

With more and more Americans tuning in to watch this year’s FIFA World Cup, it might be a good time to think about just how much thinner the ranks of world-class soccer talent would be in this country, if not for immigration. That’s the point of a wonderful article on a site called FusionSoccer, with a title that speaks volumes: Without Immigration, Half of the U.S. World Cup Soccer Team Disappears [by Jorge Rivas, FusionSoccer, 16.Jun.2014].

The author of the piece, Jorge Rivas, observes: “For a country where immigration reform is such a hot-button issue, it’s interesting to note that more than half of the team was born outside the U.S., or have parents who are immigrants,” from a host of countries, such as Colombia, Germany, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, Mexico, and Norway. As befits a team representing a nation of immigrants, the diversity of this year’s U.S. World Cup team doesn’t stop there: “there are four players who are Latino and two players who are Native American.”

Also noteworthy: the site shows pictures of the entire U.S. squad, with photos of team members who are immigrants – or sons of immigrants – blinking on and off. The underlying message: immigration matters, and our nation is all the richer for it! Now, if we could only convince the immigration skeptics in Congress …

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