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U.S. Soccer Owes Much to Immigration

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In the arena of World Cup soccer – or football, as it’s known throughout the rest of the globe – immigration often plays a major role in the composition of teams. Many players are recruited to play professionally for teams that are not located in their countries of birth. When it comes to World Cup play, however, soccer players are required to make a choice between their country of birth and the country in which they play. Once they choose a team, and once they play for their selected squad in the every-four-years event, they are locked in to the team for life and can’t change back. This prevents players from selling themselves as mercenary players to the highest bidder in the highest-stakes, highest-profile soccer event in the world.

This year, for the first time since the United States has fielded a team in the World Cup, none of the U.S. players are playing on non-immigrant visas – all are U.S. citizens. This, however, does not mean that immigration has not played a major role in the team’s composition; on the contrary. At a time when immigration reform has become such a divisive issue on the national political scene, it is interesting to note that more than half of the U.S. World Cup team would not be playing for us if they – or their parents – had not been allowed into the United States.

This year’s U.S. World Cup team has a strong German influence. Five players – Fabian Johnson, Julian Green, John Brooks, Jermaine Jones and Timmy Chandler – have at least one parent who is German or were themselves born in Germany. Tim Howard’s mother is from Hungary and Jozy Altidore’s parents immigrated from Haiti. The parents of Omar Gonzalez were born in Mexico, and Aron Johnannsson’s mother and father immigrated from Iceland, although the player himself was born in Alabama. Mix Diskerud, on the other hand, was born in Norway. Alejandro Bedoya’s father is from Colombia, while his teammate, Nick Rimando has a father from the Philippines and a mother from Mexico. Of the other players who are not naturalized citizens or the children of immigrants, four are Latino and two have Native American ancestry. 

In a world that is increasingly globalized, World Cup soccer illustrates how immigration has a tremendous influence on U.S. culture and those of countries across the globe. Without a more open perspective toward immigration – especially when it comes to highly skilled or talented foreign nationals – we are simply diluting our own talent pool and limiting the U.S. on a global playing field.   

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