Sweeter than his hometown of Hershey, Pa., is the potential represented by 18-year-old Christian Pulisic for American soccer fans: the chance for the US to claim its first bona fide soccer superstar. The Ringer profiles Pulisic, who takes to the pitch for both US Soccer and Germany's Borussia Dortmund club team. He is being scouted by the world's most esteemed club (Barcelona), claims multiple "youngest player ever to …" honors, and is perpetually found on youth "phenom" lists. "Simply put: Pulisic is possibly the best 18-year-old soccer player on the planet," the Ringer asserts. And it's not just fancy footwork that's propelled the teen to the top of his game. "What impresses me most about Christian, looking at him as a player rather than a father, [is] he never makes excuses," says his dad, Mark, himself a former star in the National Professional Soccer League.
But is Pulisic what the Ringer calls a "one-off, freak occurrence" or a testament to an ever-improving US soccer league that could one day produce a player "who can make an impact on the international stage"? As with so many other things, "the truth is somewhere in the middle." Why a wealthy country like the US isn't able to produce such stars comes down to a combination of factors including inadequate coaching and too many other sports luring kids away. There's also the money issue, with little incentive for US clubs to develop players, and lower-income athletes sometimes being shut out of opportunities because of fees. But the domestic league is making inroads on the development front, which could churn out better prepared talent, meaning "the future, long promised, is maybe, finally, just around the corner." (Read the full story.)