After coming into being in Europe, football took a long while to be accepted in the United States, where its lure was countered by the claims of baseball, basketball and their own football, a kind of armour-plated rugby. A glitzy, big-money attempt to establish soccer across the pond, headlined by Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff, failed - but though the locals turned their noses up at the game as a spectacle, it was taken on as a sport to be played at their expensive colleges, who saw a side to it that we didn't. They promoted it as an alternative to baseball, seen as too old-school; basketball, which they associated with the drug-blighted inner city; and American football, with its tendency to lead to serious injuries.
It's not hard to see why US are four-time world champions
At these colleges, chiefly attended by members of the wealthy classes, football also started to be played en masse by female students. It's no real surprise, all things considered, that the US already have four Women's World Cups to their name, the most recent of which they lifted after defeating the Netherlands yesterday. Elsewhere, women's football has had to battle hard to assert itself in the face of the men's game; it has had to fight against discriminatory attitudes prevalent in countries where people have viewed it as a 'sport for the boys'. In America, where soccer was a newer thing, these kinds of prejudices didn't really exist, however. From the off, women found themselves with an altogether clearer path.
And the US' global influence as a nation made it a major asset to international women's football, just as Real Madrid's clout as a club is expected to boost Spain's still fragile domestic league. This World Cup has attracted more then a million spectators to the games in France, and over a billion TV viewers. It's starting to achieve its huge potential. The tournament was won by a US team who, in racial terms, reflected the dominant make-up of their pricey colleges. By the way, they may have beaten the Dutch 2-0, but it should have been more. Spain only lost 2-1 to the Stars and Stripes. La Roja are closing in on where they want to be. They're not quite up with the basketball side (bravo!), but they're well on course.