Soccer in the United States
The most widely played variant of football in the United States is American football, a game where an almost prolate spheroid ball is kicked, thrown and held in the arms of the players. When the term football is used without any designator in the United States, it normally refers to this type of football.
Association football - the game where field players typically use their feet to kick a spherical polyhedron ball (although they are also permitted to use their head or torso to intercept a ball in midair) – is chiefly known as soccer in the United States, although the term association football is also widely understood. During recent years the term fútbol has gained some prominence as well, as large numbers of immigrants have arrived to the United States from Spanish speaking nations.
Professional soccer has gained less attention and fan following in the United States than in most other parts of the world, especially compared to the situation in Europe and Latin America. In the United States, sports such as baseball, basketball and American football have traditionally been more popular than soccer.
Soccer revival in the United States
The interest in soccer in the United States have waxed and waned since the second half of the 1800s, and the latest revival took place in the 1990s when a U.S. bid to host 1994 FIFA World Cup gained a lot of attention from both media and sports fans. The United States won the bid and, for the first time in history, the FIFA World Cup was held in the U.S.
As a part of the bid, U.S. soccer pledged to form a professional outdoor league for soccer – something which the nation had been lacking since the collapse of the North American Soccer League (NASL). The NASL was active from 1968 to 1984.
In 1996, the Major League Soccer was formed and six years later many of the players developed in this league played in the 2002 FIFA World Cup where the U.S. team beat their archival Mexico in the Round of 16 and only narrowly lost to Germany (who eventually finished runner-up in the cup) in the quarterfinals.
As of 2011, the Major League Soccer is the 12th most-attended premier division in the world.
Women's soccer in the United States
The increased interest in soccer in the United States is to no insignificant amount attributed to the international success of the nation's female soccer players. The 1999 and 2003 FIFA Women's Cup took place on U.S. soil, and the U.S. team is currently (2011) ranked first in the FIFA Women's World Rankings.
The United States women's national soccer team (USWNT) has won two Women's World Cups, one in 1991 and one in 1999, as well as three Olympic Gold Medals (1996, 2004 and 2008).