Soccer is one of the most popular sports in America. Loyal fans and exciting tournaments have made soccer a household favorite over the years. While the pandemic negatively impacted soccer play in last year, players and fans remained hopeful. 2021 is already seeing the resurgence of American soccer.
There are numerous tournaments lined up this year. The U.S. Open Cup, for example, will soon begin its first round. The Women’s Football Alliance is set to kick off this season within a month. A new initiative could prevent teams from ignoring serious head injuries by allowing for more substitutions.
The world of soccer is constantly evolving and there is always news to be processed. Whether for basketball predictions or soccer predictions, staying updated always enhances the experience. Kate Richardson, our guest author, and an expert in American soccer tells you what to expect this year.
U.S. Open Cup 2021
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup happens to be the most famous and high-profile tournament in American soccer. Professionals and amateurs affiliated with U.S. Soccer come together to engage in tough but fair competition. Founded more than 100 years ago, the U.S. Open Cup holds prestige for any skilled soccer player.
The pandemic has forced some difficult decisions. Since the U.S. Open Cup usually has clubs from all over the country, the Committee has decided to eliminate the usual Opening Round. The current format of the tournament includes a total of sixteen teams that will compete in four rounds for the title. The Committee uses geographical proximity as a factor when dividing the participating teams into groups. As of now, each quarter is supposed to have two lower division teams and two first division teams.
U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer have made their announcement regarding the qualification process for the U.S. Open Cup 2021. Back in February, U.S. Soccer has said that a total of eight MLS teams would participate this year. According to U.S. Soccer, they will choose the teams on the basis of their performance in the first few weeks of the MLS regular season.
The National Football League has fixed its media agreements for the next 11 years. This pact will continue until 2033. NFL renewed the TV rights of all the current broadcast partners. Amazon Prime Video is now an exclusive partner as well. They will be the only broadcasting option for the Thursday Night Football Package. If you are an avid football watcher, you will want to sort out your subscriptions.
New initiative for head injuries
Soccer players have always suffered heavily due to concussion injuries. The FIFA regulations only allow for limited substitutions. Each game could only accommodate three substitutions before the pandemic. Many players ignored the serious concerns related to concussions to preserve gameplay.
However, recent research has shed light on how dangerous it can be to ignore head injuries. North American soccer leagues are hence planning to become part of a new initiative. It will hopefully reduce situations that could force a team to ignore concussion-related injuries. The following organizations are joining FIFA’s pilot program:
- The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL)
- The Major League Soccer (MLS)
- The National Independent Soccer Association (NISA)
- The United Soccer League (USL)
The program will accommodate extra substitutions in case of suspected head injuries.
New additions to the men’s national team
Yunus Musah recently made quite a statement by committing to the national soccer team of the United States. What’s significant is that Musah grew up in England and was a part of the English youth national teams. Musah joined the American team last year for a few friendlies. He decided to make the association permanent within four months.
Musah, 18, shows immense potential. He played his first full season in 2020-2021. With proper guidance, he could grow up to be a top-tier player.
Increased participation of women in soccer
The idea of soccer as a manly sport is slowly beginning to crumble as more and more women are showing an interest in watching and playing the game. Ohio University conducted a study to highlight the increasing number of football aficionados among women.
Maya Chaka, who is a health and physical education teacher, joined the NFL as its second female official ever. The NFL has also hired women as coaches and scouts.
The NFL wants to become more inclusive and allow women more opportunities to build successful careers in football. They can be coaches, players, administrators or scouts. Women are breaking down the barriers and claiming their role in this world of soccer. More than 4000 women around the country belong to organized leagues to play tackle football. The Women’s Football Alliance, a huge organization with 66 teams and 3 divisions, is set to kick off this season on May 1st.
Preparation for the Olympic Tournament
The national women’s team is also preparing for the Olympic tournament scheduled in Tokyo in the summer. The U.S. is eyeing an enviable distinction here. They could be the first country to win an Olympic gold medal and a World Cup within four years.
Vlatko Andonovski, the U.S. coach, has created a 23-woman roster in preparation for the Olympic tournament. The national team will participate in April friendlies. 15 of the selected players were a part of the Women’s World Cup championship squad 2019.
Some notable players are absent from the team due to injuries. The final list of players who go to Tokyo in the summer could be drafted from this roster.
2021 is going to be an exciting year for soccer, especially after a boring 2020. There is doubt that we will see talented gameplay and be at the edge of our seats in the coming months. Teams will look to adjust to the new rules related to suspected head injuries on the field. Both the women’s national team and the men’s national team have seen some interesting additions. Watching them will be an absolute delight for sure.