Mossman Prophecies No. 007
July 2, 2007
It's the dead of summer so we're taking a break from
Sooner sports this week to look at something else ...
There sat my two teenage sons in the family room watching
sports on television. A typical Saturday afternoon,
Hardly. They were watching soccer.
There does appear to be more interest in and discussion
of the World Cup this time around. A lot of it centers
on why the American team has yet to reach elite status.
The reasons for falling short are often repeated. They
include the fact that the lack of scoring challenges
our thirst for action and the fact that boys in this
country do not pursue the sport through manhood as
we see in so many other nations.
It is that last one, and one of the reasons behind
it, that intrigues me.
It is generally accepted that athletes hit their prime
somewhere between their mid-20's and mid-30's. The
gap between adolescence and peak performance, at least
in this country, has always been bridged by intercollegiate
athletics. College sports have been an incredible training
In the sport of men's soccer, that is not necessarily
In Division I, there are 199 men's soccer teams. Of
those 199, just 46 are at schools that also sponsor
Division I-A football, including none in the Big 12
Conference. For the most part, the best-funded athletics
programs are not playing men's soccer.
That would have to change given the current sports
structure in our country if the U.S. team is to improve.
Soccer ranks No. 8 among men's sports in Division I
in terms of schools sponsoring the sport. Basketball
leads at 326, followed by cross country at 303, baseball
at 285, tennis at 264, outdoor track and field at 263,
indoor track and field at 243 and football at 235 (including
Divisions I-A and I-AA).
Over on the women's side there are 301 soccer programs
in Division I, 105 at the 119 schools that also play
I-A football. Soccer is the fourth-most popular women's
sport among Division I schools.
In the four women's World Cups that have been played,
the Americans won two and finished third in two. Coincidence?
This is not meant to ignite a Title IX debate. I readily
admit that women were short-changed for many, many
years. Rather, this is simply to illustrate how the
sheer numbers may explain the success or lack thereof
for American soccer, especially as it competes with
a world so obsessed with the sport.
In the interest of gender equity, university administrators
have embraced soccer as a women's sport with a large
roster count. There are many opportunities to play
and earn scholarships. In turn, more women are inspired
to pursue the sport. It is only logical to assume that
more participants translate to a deeper, more competitive
It is not the job of this country's universities to
keep Team USA competitive, but whether it is an intended
consequence or not, it is still a consequence.
Don't look for the number of men's soccer teams to
increase. To comply with Title IX, universities are
adding predominantly women's sports for the foreseeable
That will ensure that we will continue to compete for
the World Cup on the women's side, while challenging
proponents of men's soccer to be more creative in building
the sport and training the athletes.
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Kenny Mossman, Associate Athletics Director for
Communications, provides his perspective on Oklahoma
Athletics in his regular column on SoonerSports.com.