England against US is a derby in all but name, insists Barnsley FC defender

ANYONE doubtful about the existence of a footballing rivalry between England and the United States could do worse than watch footage of the 2019 Women's World Cup meeting between both countries.

The US prevailed 2-1 in the semi-final in Lyon with Alex Morgan's tea-drinking celebration following the winning goal causing a stir on social media after appearing to mock English culture.

The history between the two nations actually extends to the States' national anthem.

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The words to The Star-Spangled Banner were written by a lawyer called Francis Scott Key following an American victory over the invading Royal Navy in the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, soon after the British had torched the White House.

Barnsley defender Tom Edwards, who spent time in the USA with New York Red Bulls. Picture courtesy of Barnsley FC.Barnsley defender Tom Edwards, who spent time in the USA with New York Red Bulls. Picture courtesy of Barnsley FC.
Barnsley defender Tom Edwards, who spent time in the USA with New York Red Bulls. Picture courtesy of Barnsley FC.

The States' main soccer rivalry is with Mexico, but the prevalence of high-profile US players in the Premier League and a number of English players in an MLS (Major League Soccer) which has grown in popularity in recent years, ensures that in the men's game these days, it also has a bit of a derby feel.

Certainly when you canvass the opinions of those who represent the Stars and Stripes or those who know them well, who include Barnsley defender Tom Edwards.

England have played the States on 11 occasions, winning eight times.

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But at World Cup's, it has not been so straightforward, far from it.

The US are unbeaten in two previous meetings - recording a stunning 1-0 win in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte in 1950 and pegging the English back in a 1-1 draw in Rustenburg in South Africa’s North West Province sixty years later.

From his relatively recent time in the US with New York Red Bulls, where he spent two loan spells away with parent club Stoke City, Edwards has seen enough to acknowledge they are desperate to turn over England in the latest meeting on Friday night with the American contingent including Leeds United duo Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson.

The banter soon started to fly after the draw was made.

Edwards, whose Bulls team-mate Aaron Long is in the US squad, said: "They really do, I will be honest with you.

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"There were maybe only three or four English lads in the changing room, but we always gave a bit of stick and that was always going to happen. It used to go back and forth.

"I think that is their main priority at the group stage - to try and get one over England.

"One hundred per cent, it feels like a derby. The English lads all talk about English football and they always talk about their side and we go back and forth on that as well.

"They want to try and prove a point and make sure it is called 'soccer.' It has never been called soccer, it's always been called football. Obviously I want England to win.

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"Aaron was my captain at Red Bulls and I know Cameron Carter-Vickers as well and they are great lads.

"But when it comes to that day, I will not be supporting them.

" I'm sure I will be getting a few messages and stuff. I will save the messaging for after the game."

Gridiron, baseball, basketball and ice hockey are viewed as the sports which get Americans pulses racing more than others.

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But the crowd numbers in the MLS provide numerical evidence that 'soccer' is not too far behind in a league whose profile is now as high as it's ever been.

It's also more respected these days and not viewed as the ‘retirement home’ for aging European stars as it once was.

For those who question its intensity, Edwards also has a clear message.

Edwards, who faced ex-Stoke team-mates Ryan Shawcross and Xherdan Shaqiri during his time in the US, continued: "It is an amazing experience for any player to go over there.

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"I'd say to any young player that if they get the chance to go over there, do it and get a bit of experience with the stadiums you play in and cities you go to.

"It is growing and getting bigger and bigger and that was one of the main things that they told me when I first went over there.

"They said I'd watch it grow and I really did. I played in a game where there were 60,000 fans there.

"You go to all the different states and I went to one game and there was a bull made of hay which was set on fire in the middle of the road to stop us from getting into the stadium.

"They try and make it big over there and do it really well.

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"There were half-time shows and at every stadium we played in, there was a massive turn-out and the atmosphere was a good level.

"It is very underrated. I went over and people were talking about it and stuff, but the standard is very high.

"I have known players come over there - especially the team I was at - and agree with me and say 'wow I wasn't expecting this, it's a bit of a shock to me.'

"I'd say to anyone 'don't underestimate that league', it's a high standard and growing."

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