ZURICH: FIFA president Sepp Blatter has expressed concern that professional league football in the United States has not progressed as quickly, visibly and effectively as expected on the back of its hosting of the 1994 World Cup.

One of the pledges of the United States bid to host the finals back then was that a ‘serious’ professional league would be ready to build on the momentum generated by the finals.

However, while the organisational stability of Major League Soccer has been proved by its endurance and evolution, it was not ready to start until 1996, two years after the first – and so far only – finals in the US.

Previous competitions, such as the original North American Soccer League, had proved only a potential for financial suicide which gave the game and many of its administrators a bad name.

Simultaneously the development and popularity at grassroots level has been immense. But Blatter, in an end-of-year interview with Aljazeera, has reviewed with a clear sense of regret what he considers a missed opportunity for the professional game in the US.

He said: “Soccer is the most popular game among the youth – not American football or baseball – but there is not yet a strong football league.

“There is Major League Soccer but no other professional leagues recognised by American society.

“Of course it is a question of time. I thought, when we had the World Cup in the United States in 1994, it should have been done by now. But it’s been 18 years and they are still struggling.”

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