With the plethora of sports that exist in America the interest in soccer has never been at the forefront of the nation. Baseball was - and to some degree still is - considered America's pastime. However, basketball is the nation's most popular sport today.
Add in football as well as some other sports like tennis, hockey and lacrosse, just to name a few, and it's abundantly clear what one of the reasons is - there's simply too many sports to choose from. Couple that with media's decision to focus more exclusively on baseball, basketball and football and it's no wonder soccer has often been an afterthought in the culture of American sports.
That seems to be changing though on many levels nationwide. The sport has been growing in popularity in the U.S. since the 1960s and 1970s, but really didn't see a significant boost until after 1994 when the United States hosted the World Cup, which is held every four years.
Two years later MLS (Major League Soccer) - the sport's highest level in the U.S. and Canada - opened it's first season with 10 teams belonging to the league. Today there are 19 teams - 16 in the U.S. and three in Canada - with further expansion planned as the sport and the league continue to thrive. MLS now has the third highest average attendance with over 18,000 people per game. The World Cup has also become more popular with Americans as more than 24 million viewers watched the final match between Spain and the Netherlands in 2010.
The rising popularity of the sport extends far beyond those watching the professional matches on TV and at the stadiums though. There has also been more people who have taken up the sport. As of 2006, 3.9 million American youths were registered with U.S. soccer and the number of high school players from 1990 to 2010 more than doubled.
Locally, the sport has not only enjoyed a great degree of popularity, but success as well. Dating back to 1974, the Burr and Burton Academy boys soccer team has won nine state championships - four of which came over a five year span from 1999 to 2003. They also 12 finals appearances to their credit and 20 trips to the semifinals. The Burr and Burton girls team has also been successful over the years. At their height, they won three consecutive state championships. During that time period when the teams won two of their three titles, the three teams put together a string of 37 consecutive wins, which included a perfect 17-0 season. The girls team won four championships total since 1985, appeared in seven finals matches and went to the semifinals nine times.
Arlington's soccer program has also had its fair share of success. Since 1988 the girls team has won six state titles in 10 trips to the finals and appeared in the semifinals 18 times. The boys team has collected four state titles since 1969 in 11 finals appearances and have made 22 trips to the semifinals.
This year, professional soccer has come to the area with Vermont Voltage - a member of the Premier Development League - signing an agreement with the Town of Manchester to play four of their games at Applejack Field
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