If there was any doubt about the influence of the World Cup on American teenagers, you only needed to show up at soccer tryouts Thursday at Woodland Hills El Camino Real, where a record 165 students turned out to try for one of the 45 available spots.
Never before in the 22-year coaching career of David Hussey have so many students wanted to join the soccer team.
"It's very surprising," Hussey said. "It's 40 more than we've ever had."
There are so many players that Hussey will have to cut down the number to below 100 by Friday morning, posting on the P.E. office window a list of players who can continue for two more days of tryouts.
Yes, El Camino Real has won four City Section titles and is one of the best programs, but the Conquistadores are hardly alone. I was at Sylmar on Wednesday and saw more than 70 players trying out for the soccer team. The football team has less than that on its JV and varsity teams. Defending City champion Birmingham had more than 160 students try out for its soccer team.
"I think the sport is becoming more popular," Hussey said.
Could futbol be trumping football?
Hussey said the last eight years of World Cup success by the American team and interest in such teams as Germany, Brazil, Spain and Italy are fueling interest in the sport. Teenagers want to be the next Tim Howard or Lionel Messi.
He has two foreign-exchange students from Germany trying out. Neither plays for his high school team in Germany. They're club players. Classmates have been asking them about their favorite players on the Germany team, the World Cup champions.
Asked if he's any good in soccer, Lennart Sekulic, who comes from Hamburg, said with a grin: "Yes we're good. We're German."
Players showed up wearing gloves that glowed, knee guards that glittered and shoes of all different colors. They look like soccer players, but Hussey and three assistants were having to work overtime to pick out the best.
"It's amazing that so many kids enjoy this sport and want to play," Hussey said. "It's pleasing."