Photo by AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
- Christian Pulisic can have the same effect on American soccer as Tiger Woods once did on golf, Business Insider has been told.
- Woods took up professional golf in 1996, and his instant success caused a dramatic increase in the uptake of the sport, according to Golf Digest.
- And Doug Harris, the chairman of Pulisic’s childhood club, foresees a new generation of American soccer players being inspired by the 20-year-old.
- Pulisic joined Chelsea FC in a $73 million move from Borussia Dortmund earlier this year, and has turned heads with his impressive performances thus far.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Christian Pulisic can have the same impact on American soccer as Tiger Woods once did on golf, the chairman of the 20-year-old’s childhood club, the Philadelphia Classics, tells Business Insider.
Pulisic joined the PA Classics aged 10, and played four seasons with the club’s various age levels before being scouted by the Bundesliga giant Borussia Dortmund at the age of 15 in 2015.
His impressive form in Germany earned the American starlet a $73 million transfer to Chelsea in January, and since joining up with his new side earlier in the summer, Pulisic has continued to turn heads with his eye-catching displays in pre-season and, most notably, in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool on Wednesday.
Doug Harris, a close friend of the Pulisic family and the chairman of the PA Classics, has seen Pulisic’s career progression first hand, and says it bears a striking resemblance to one of America’s greatest sports stars, Tiger Woods.
"I don’t know if you’re familiar with what Tiger Woods did to golf. That’s what we are hoping Pulisic can do with young soccer players in the US," Harris told Business Insider.
Tim Bradbury/Getty Images
Woods became a professional golfer at 20-years-old in 1996, and quickly became a household name after winning three PGA Tour events and a first major in less than a year.
The 43-year-old’s meteoric rise to fame inspired a new generation of young American golfers at the time.
According to Golf Digest, an extra 60,000 American high schoolers chose to take up golf in the 1998-99 season, just two years after Woods turned pro, while collegiate level golf saw an average increase in uptake of 21.5% for men, and an astonishing 187.5% for women.
That’s where I’m sort of seeing Christian take this thing. It’s only gonna grow playing with Chelsea, and being in the Premier League.
That next generation Tiger helped uncover is now dominating the sport at the highest level. Of the top 20 ranked players in the men’s game today, eight are American’s aged 30 or under.
In the women’s game, five of the top 20 fall into that age bracket.
And Harris believes Pulisic — who himself has risen to stardom in double quick time — can have the same impact on the next generation of American soccer.
"Tiger really created a ton of interest in youth golf when he first came through the pro ranks. He was an electric personality: his incredible ability, his discipline, his smile, everything about him.
"And all of a sudden you see a whole generation of young kids going into local programs to learn golf. I remember when parents used to say their kids would want to go and play little league baseball, and then suddenly it was like they want to go and be a golfer instead, and you’re like ‘really?!.’
"And we saw that over and over, a swell of kids who want to go out and be the best golfers.
"That’s where I’m sort of seeing Christian take this thing. Everybody knows who Christian Pulisic is now. So the name is out there, and it’s only gonna grow. It’s only gonna grow playing with Chelsea, and being in the Premier League."
Mark Stehle/AP Images for Panini America
Harris added: "The younger players have a whole new level to aspire to: of technical ability, work rate, all of that. And I really believe that there are lot of young players in the US now who are really working hard at their games because they are seeing what Christian’s doing."
The US men’s national team is rising
After disappointingly failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, finishing behind both Honduras and Panama in CONCACAF qualifying, the USMNT have lost just three of their 12 matches so far in 2019. One of those was in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, where the team lost 1-0 to Mexico because of a late goal from LA Galaxy’s Jonathan dos Santos.
The USMNT’s good form has seen Gregg Berhalter’s side rise a solid eight places in the most recent FIFA world rankings.
He’s setting the bar for US soccer at a whole different level.
Harris believes Pulisic’s influence has had a lot to do with the team’s surge in form.
"He’s setting the bar for US soccer at a whole different level," said Harris, "He’s already starting to have some of his US team-mates around him up their game and jump on the wagon and say, ‘Let’s create a US national team that can really compete.’"
Harris again referenced the similarity to Tiger Woods, adding: "Amongst Tiger’s peers, when he was beating them, and beating them so bad, it caused all of his competitors to say, ‘Hey, we are tired of getting our butts kicked, we’ve gotta up our game!.’ And so Tiger elevated the game to a whole new level."
Pulisic will next turn out for Chelsea when the team takes on Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, and it is likely there will be many young boys and girls in the US watching the player’s every move.
"So what Tiger did in the golf community, I think Christian has that potential. I’m not saying it’s there yet, but I’m just saying all the markings. This is trending the same way Tiger Woods was trending."
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