Friday, June 27, 2014

USA Soccer vs The World

Every four years during the World Cup, there is the inevitable debate about why the United States is not more successful in international soccer. Considering the size of the country and our sports-obsessed culture, we would figure to be dominant in soccer as well. The common answer is that the most popular sport in the world is not the most popular sport in the USA and that our best athletes play in other sports. However, if all our best athletes played one sport, we would decline in other sports.  What is the tradeoff?  What are the other sports?

Looking at several rankings, the most popular sports in the world are:

Ping Pong/Table Tennis
American Football

Using international governing bodies rankings (like FIFA and FIBA) as well as various individual rankings (like ATP and PGA players countries of origin), below is how countries rank in the ten sports above (click to enlarge):

The United States has the most top ten rankings with seven. Also, the USA has the top ranked team in four sports, no other country has more than one. We have six teams in the top five, no other country has more than three.

What about the more all-encompassing world sporting event, the Olympics? Well, when looking at the total medal count in the past three winter and summer games, we have not been too shabby either:

Therefore, before we get all bent out of shape that USA Soccer is only ranked #13 and backed into being one of the 16 teams remaining in the World Cup, keep in mind our overall sports dominance.

Well, except cricket. According to the USA Cricket team’s Wikipedia page, “There are only five official cricket pitches in the United States and only three of the players on the cricket team are born in the United States.” That’s not a wicked googly.