Over the past three years, the percentage of 6- to 12-year-olds playing soccer regularly has dropped nearly 14 percent, to 2.3 million players, according to a study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
With its gables, turrets and iron railing, U.S. Soccer House — as the mansion housing the U.S. Soccer Federation is known — looks more like a fortress than the headquarters of a major sports organization. It is fitting: The federation is on the defensive. It is bad enough that the men’s national team failed to qualify for this summer’s World Cup, a fact the federation was reminded of daily as the tournament in Russia dazzled global audiences on its way to crowning a new champion.
The real threat, however, to its mission to make soccer one of America’s pre-eminent sports is here at home, where youth players are abandoning the game in alarming numbers.