As if a spell is bro≠ken, the age

of 12 is the magic number for Americans to turn their backs on soccer. Itís not a complete breakup, but the love for the game just isnít the same.

I admit, while I love watching soccer, I didnít grow up with the sport. I learned to love it during my travels abroad.

As a lover of all sports, I wanted to know why the love for soccer dries up at the age of 12.

What I expected to find was that money was the culprit, but thatís taking the easy way out. I think the answer is simpler than that.

Iíve read charts and graphs showing data that support reasons for American soccerís decline, but the best answers I got

were from asking a friend. Heís been in the United States for years, but grew up in Newcastle, England. When I asked him about the state of affairs of soccer in America, he said he was pleased with the growth of the sport here, but said the reason it has not caught on yet is because in Europe the level of commitment to the sport is different.

Europe, just like Ameri≠ca, takes athletically-gifted youth and gives them the opportunity to learn in academies dedicated to educating as well as hon≠ing athletic ability. We call them sports schools here because of their empha≠sis placed on athletics. But the difference is that Americaís sports schools are predominately for basketball and American football and Europeís are more soccer-based.

European sports schools also start at a much young≠er age than American. Where most American

athletes begin sports schools in high school, European children begin as early as 6 years old.

While American youthís first love is soccer up to the age of 12, I fear the draw of other sports is too great. Itís not to say that Amer≠ica isnít changing because it is. As more people from foreign countries continue to call America home, the soccer cultural grows. Soc≠cer has a future.

I believe the youth who once connected with soc≠cer will rediscover their childhood crush as adults.

Iím not just concerned about the players of the game. Iím interested in the fans too. You canít have one without the other. Someone whoís only seen European soccer on televi≠sion like Liverpool versus Manchester United under≠stands that the American soccer fan is in need of an infused passion.

I donít expect fans here to love soccer to same

degree as they do in Liv≠erpool and Manchester. That is the rivalry that the soccer world aspires to achieve. You canít manufacture that kind of ferocity, which is born from industrial hatred. My hope for American soccer

is that the love that comes out every four years for the Olympics or major soccer matches begins to grow. Soccer is more than a passing, youthful crush. I hope whatever spell bewitched us as children, grabs us again.