Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika

This is not about a new potential attraction at Disneyland, complete with Panzer and Stuka dive bomber rides, but rather an exploration of German soccer clubs in the U.S.


OK next topic.

No seriously, if you believe official statistics, more Americans claim German descent than any other group. I find this hard to believe, but when you think about, we really do have a lot in common: we're both arrogant, we think we're better than everybody else (hmm, we must have a lot of French here too), and we like to invade other countries. And among our most cherished institutions are Hamburgers and Frankfurters. The records do show that German immigration came in massive waves from Emden (fleeing Kickers Emden, no doubt) and Hamburg (although many got stuck in the Reeperbahn).

Although Germans undoubtedly formed sports associations, for the most part they've integrated quickly. Which is not surprising, when you consider that most Germans who visit the U.S. today have a greater command of the English language than most Americans.

The highpoint of German organizations in the U.S. was probably the 1930s. In fact, the "German-American Bund" was America's homegrown pro-Nazi movement, led by a yokel named Fritz Kuhn. (And acting like many of his Nazi brethren, Kuhn was sent to prison for embezzling funds from his own organization.) Needless to say, they got a severe ass-kicking after December 7th, 1941, and in fact many German sports clubs changed their colors and became simply sports clubs.

Among the few remaining "German" clubs are New York's Blau-Weiss Gottschee, which was founded by ethnic Germans from Slovenia's Kocevje region who were booted out after WWII. For many years, they were among the stronger soccer clubs in the U.S.

The first highpoint of league based soccer in the U.S. was probably the 1920s and 1930s, when many immigrant based teams competed at a high level. Before the advent of full professionalism in Europe, it was not unusual to have players with top league experience emigrate to the US.

US based professional leagues have come and gone, but the first major attempt was the North American Soccer League (NASL), which lasted from 1967-84. The NASL had major funding and attracted players from all over the world. Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller knew that they could never be considered World class unless they played in the US. Plus unknown players like Pele, Johan Cruyff, Eusebio attempted to get noticed. OK, for the most part, the players came over here because they couldn't yet qualify for their old-age Social Security pension. But apparently there were quite a few Germans in this category. See a partial list...Eventually, the NASL came to be dominated by the New York Cosmos, who had all the money and were willing to spend. They were actually a pretty decent team, although as wont with the German press, they were ridiculed, especially when they toured in Germany and lost horribly against crummy teams. The most devastating was against the Freiburg Catholic Women's Auxiliary club. Of course, the opposite was conveniently ignored when Bundesliga champion Hamburg travelled to New York and was crushed, giving up 6 goals in the process...

After the NASL collapsed, soccer suffered through more Dark Ages until the Major League Soccer was founded in 1996. The league has developed more slowly and seems to be on a solid footing. Unlike the NASL, there are hardly any German players, probably because based on the performance of the Erich Ribbeck Nationalelf, they aren't any good enough :)

On the national side, you'd expect an overwhelming balance in favour of Germany, but they've actually only played seven times, the first in 1993. Germany has won 5, but has often struggled, including the 2002 World Cup quarterfinal that they deserved to lose. In fact, 0-3 and 0-2 losses to the USA in 1999 is reckoned by most Germans to be the absolute lowpoint in German soccer history. In fact if they were more self-respecting like the Japanese or insane like the Brazilians, they might have committed suicide. Instead European integration has made them more like the French, so they whined about the national team incessantly instead of doing something about it. (Funny, I guess the French got more like the Germans and actually improved their team.)

(c) Abseits Guide to Germany :