Can soccer fever catch on in Selma?

Published 6:00pm Friday, July 4, 2014

For the United States, the 2014 World Cup is over, but around the country — including in Selma — its impact could last for much longer.

It’s no secret that Selma is known for its powerful basketball programs, and football fills the stands for most of the local high schools.

But there’s room for another major sport in this area. Soccer is starting to make its case as one of, if not the, fastest growing sport in Selma.

If you don’t believe me, look around.

Morgan Academy started its soccer program only four years ago but has already made incredible strides. When it started, the team was co-ed, because there was not enough interest to have separate teams. After a few years of growth, the program eventually fielded girls and boys team.

This season the program made the Alabama Independent School Association playoffs in both girls and boys soccer for the first time, which shows the progress the teams have made in recent years.

On the college level, Concordia College Alabama has shown it is giving its soccer program its full support. The college hired Emanuel Stephens as its new soccer coach in June. Stephens has already had success at Concordia as a coach in 2012, so now that he’s back, optimism is high that the Hornets can once again shine on the field. Plus, the school is also sporting its brand new soccer field, which is sure to be a prize attraction for new recruits.

If that isn’t enough proof, perhaps Sky Blue FC midfielder Katy Freels, who moved to Selma last year, can inspire those in the area to try soccer. Freels leads her Sky Blue FC team in goals scored this season and is one of the most decorated soccer players in Auburn University’s history. Mia Hamm, one of the greatest women’s soccer players in history, was actually born in Selma, so the roots are already here for great players to develop.

And although many people will argue they don’t care about the sport, it’s clear that many do. An estimated 21.6 million people watched Belgium knock the United States out of the World Cup on United States television on a weekday, which may be the most impressive part of the stat. Plus, that incredible total comes just days after a record U.S. television audience — 24.7 million people — watched the United States play Portugal on June 24.  Those totals also exceeded the average television audience for the most recent World Series and NBA Finals, which is incredible for a nation where three sports reign supreme and rarely take a backseat to anything else.

For most of us, soccer is like a strange menu item at a fancy restaurant. It’s different, but if we give it a chance, it might surprise us.

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