Soccer Goes Mainstream In USA With ESPY!

That headline might be overstating things, but not by much. The ESPY Awards were created by American sports broadcaster ESPN in 1993. A little like the Oscars for achievement in sports. Various sporing achievements from the year are honoured, with more than a little ESPN self-promotion thrown in. The important thing is that they’re very much mainstream and popular. Expert panels pick the nominees, and then fans vote for a winner.

The “Best Moment” category – as in the best sporting moment of the past year, as decided by the American general public – was contested by the New Orleans Saints Superbowl victory, Phil Mickelson winning the Masters amid much emotion, Joannie Rochette performing at the Olympics after a personal tragedy, and Landon Donovan’s dramatic late goal against Algeria that kept the team in the World Cup.

In case you missed the 18th Annual ESPY Awards, amongst awards for “Best Jockey” and “Best Bowler”, they also handed out three awards to the US Men’s National Team (or specific players from the squad). Landon Donovan picked up the award for “Best MLS Player” and the “Castrol Edge Performance Under Pressure Award” (not quite the Ballon d’Or, but it still counts). Perhaps more notably, the entire team took home honors for “Best Sports Moment”, edging out Phil Mickelson’s performance at the 2009 Masters, Joannie Rochette figure skating routine at the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the New Orleans Saints Super Bowl Championship. Here’s the clip of the squad accepting the award.

In all seriousness, congrats to the USA Men’s National Team for picking up the award (and to Donovan specifically, who deserved all the recognition he received). Not sure if receiving an award created by a sports entertainment company is the most fitting way to sum up the USA’s World Cup performance, but I’ll take it! I know this doesn’t mean soccer is suddenly more popular than the NFL, NBA or golf. But at the very least this is the sport of soccer taking another step towards the limelight in American popular culture.

Recently, Thiery Henry joined Major League Soccer (MLS) with New York Red Bulls team. There, he will team up with Juan Pablo Angel, who he knows from his Aston Villa days, in what could be potentially the MLS's most explosive attacking partnership. Another former Arsenal player, Freddie Ljungberg is now with Seattle Sounders. More superstars are expected to join MLS in coming years, there are even rumors that Ronaldinho and Rafael Marquez to follow suit in close season. Certainly, MLS has the potential and capabilities to be the next best thing in American sports history.

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