It may not be a well-known fact but New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is a big follower of the beautiful game.
The nine-time NBA All-Star made headlines last year when he purchased a soccer club, NASL side Puerto Rico FC, a team that will launch its inaugural season on July 2.
Anthony hopes that his investment will be a positive addition to the already major strides that the sport has made and believes that it will be competing with all major American sports very soon…including his NBA.
“I think in the next 15 years, soccer will be as big as any other sport here in the U.S.” Anthony told NBCSports.com exclusively in phone interview to promote his team’s friendly match against the Puerto Rican national team in New York.
“It’s growing at a pace that no one could have ever imagined.”
Like most soccer fans in this country, he wants to see the U.S. national take the next step on the global stage and compete with the biggest teams in the world.
He believes that by opening up a team in the American commonwealth, with a heavy emphasis on academies and homegrown players, he will be able to help in his own way.
“The point is, we want our U.S. national team to compete with the Germanys and all those other countries,” he said. “But we have to start with our youth and we need to have more emphasis on our academies.”
So yes, Anthony has been following the U.S. national team to see if its will progress out of the group stage in the Copa America Centario. He recently traveled to Chicago to see the tournament hosts rebound from a 2-0 opening loss to Colombia, as the Yanks routed Costa Rica 4-0. It was a result that he said he thoroughly enjoyed and one that he believes should raise the expectations on the team.
“Well this is the time for them to show that. Show that we have the talent as a country. We can play at a high level as well. I think this is a pivotal time for the U.S. and its national team.”
Anthony is scheduled to attend the Copa America Final at MetLife Stadium on June 26, if his schedule permits. He hopes he’ll be watching the U.S. in that match.
“Yeah, I have to [want them to win]. I’m American. Go U.S.A.!”
You can bet if the team makes it that far, Melo will be there.