Our Game. Our Stories.
The essence of soccer is captured in the fact that it connects a wide variety of people in a dynamic way. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are profiling 20 individuals who have made a significant impact on the game of soccer or who have been impacted by soccer in a positive way. Here, we will show you the diversity of the beautiful game and how it connects everyone as one universal team...Together, We Are Soccer.
This is our game and these are our stories. Be sure to visit our site every week to see who we feature next!
The founder of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Major League Soccer and the former President of the U.S. Soccer Federation, Alan Rothenberg is one of the most influential figures in the history of North American soccer and is credited with greatly contributing to the growth of the game in the United States. Alan served as Chairman of the Board of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup and Chairman and CEO of the 1994 World Cup Organizing Committee, which staged the historic 1994 World Cup in the United States. He also served as the Chairman of the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
He is the namesake of the Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy, which was awarded annually to the winner of the MLS Cup until 2008. In 2007, Rothenberg was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in recognition of his contributions to the beautiful game.
What are your thoughts on the 20 year journey the Foundation has taken thus far?
A fateful decision for the growth of soccer was made 20 years ago when the leaders of the sport in the United States decided to use the approximately $60 million surplus from the 1994 FIFA World Cup to fund a foundation, to exist perpetually, focused on growing and supporting the sport of soccer at all levels. The highlights of the results of that decision include, but are not limited to the following:
- Provided initial support for the creation of MLS
- Provided funding for U.S. Soccer to purchase its headquarters in Chicago
- Provided funds to create the National Training Center and thus encouraged AEG to build the Home Depot Center (now StubHub Center), which along with Columbus Crew's stadium, opened the door for the construction of soccer specific stadiums throughout the country
- Provided funds to help underwrite the historical 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup and the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup
- Contributed funds to support all women’s professional leagues in the U.S.
Since its inception, the Foundation has provided over $60 million to grow and enhance the sport of soccer in the United States in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, the Foundation has built or improved over 1,000 play spaces, and collected and redistributed almost one million pieces of soccer equipment around the world. Most recently, the Foundation has brought soccer to urban areas in major cities in the U.S. through its Soccer for Success program. This program not only introduces the sport to thousands of young boys and girls, but also teaches them how to adopt a healthy lifestyle. It has been exciting to witness the sport transform so many young lives and who knows, one of those children may even aspire to become a national team player because of the Foundation’s programs!
The Foundation has been critical to the growth of the game nationwide, at both the professional level and the grassroots level. From providing children in need with equipment to play soccer, to creating safe places to play and programming aimed at positive youth development, the Foundation continues to be a driving force in using the sport in a positive way. The first 20 years have been quite strong – I look forward to seeing the Foundation and the sport of soccer continue to evolve in the next 20.
How did you get involved in soccer? Did you always know that you wanted to be involved in the sport?
At the age of 28 and never having seen or played a soccer game, I was named the General Manager of the Los Angeles Wolves - of what became a part of the former NASL. I was a lawyer who had grown up in Detroit, loving the then four major sports of baseball, football, basketball, and hockey, with no previous thought of being professionally involved with soccer, or any sport for that matter.
Do you have a favorite soccer memory or is there a player that you particularly admire?
I have no one favorite soccer memory but an amalgam: the surprise success of soccer in the '84 Olympics, the enormous success of the '94 FIFA World Cup, the formation of MLS and the historic '99 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Why is it so important for young people to have the opportunity to play?
Giving youngsters an opportunity to play not only exposes them to the "beautiful game" but teaches them the value of teamwork and physical conditioning.
You’ve seen the game grow and change dramatically over the course of your career. In your opinion, what has been the single most defining moment for U.S. Soccer thus far?
There is no one single defining moment for U.S. Soccer but rather the cumulative effect of all the activities and events set forth above and thus the inexorable growth, if not explosion, of soccer at every level.
20 years from now, how do you envision the state of soccer in America?
20 years from now I envision MLS as being unquestionably recognized as one of the 5 major professional leagues in the United States (and with a new generation of soccer specific stadia with double the capacity of todays) and on a par with the leading leagues of the world (e.g. Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A) and the Mens U.S. National team being a perennial top 10 team in FIFA rankings and every quadrennial having a reasonable opportunity to win the World Cup and the Women's National Team continuing to be the best in the world.
For too long soccer in America has been called the "sport of the future"; well in 20 years it will be the sport of the "here and now".
If you could only pick one word to describe soccer, it would be …
Since "beautiful" is always used, how about "supercalifragilisticexpialadosis"- or whatever Disney's word was!