A veteran player and the Aston Villa manager say evidence of soccer increasing in popularity in the United States is plain to see.
FRISCO, Texas — Soccer in the United States has achieved a higher profile during the last decade, and that hasn't escaped the attention of Aston Villa.
The club, owned by American Randy Lerner but put up for sale in May by the former MBNA executive, is doing a Texas two-step, playing MLS clubs FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo in preseason contests.
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Veteran midfielder Joe Cole says he has noticed buzz growing each time he tours North America.
"I’ve been coming here for about 10 years on these preseason tours, and every time I come the interest gets a little bit more. The fans are a little bit more excited to see you," he said Tuesday. "I think football’s growing here, and you saw that with the World Cup. America, I think they’ve done brilliantly, and you feel it’s growing then."
His manager, Paul Lambert, noted that the American domestic league has been boosted in recent years by players both from the U.S. and abroad.
"I think you look at the MLS, I think you’ve got a lot of experienced players coming over from Europe to play here, which I think enhances your league. I think that certainly helps you," Lambert said. "I think there’s some really good players in America. You look at the lad [Clint] Dempsey’s obviously done well, [Landon] Donovan’s done it, [Brad] Guzan’s done it, [Tim] Howard’s done it. So there’s been a lot.
"Even my time playing home in Scotland there’s a lad called Claudio Reyna who I thought was an excellent footballer. So I think you can get players from this league no problem. I think it certainly helps your league with some of the British lads coming over to play in it. Would I scout it? Absolutely I would. If there’s a good player there, then we’d certainly look at him."