The MLS Cup final took place over the weekend, and it was a seven-year-old girl who stole the show before a ball had even been kicked.
Soccer has never been the number one sport in the United States and it likely never will be. However, it has taken a bigger dip than usual over the past two or three years. Following a successful showing at the 2014 World Cup that grabbed the attention of the nation, the US national team didn't even qualify for this past summer's tournament.
The tide is once again changing, though. In 2026, which might seem like a long way off right now, the world will be watching as the World Cup takes place across the US, Canada, and Mexico. All three nations will qualify automatically since they are hosts. That news has seen an uptick in the popularity of soccer in North America as was demonstrated this past weekend.
The MLS Cup final took place at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia in front of 73,000 fans. That's a record for an MLS game. Atlanta United took full advantage of being at home, beating the Portland Timbers 2-0 via goals from Josef Martinez and Franco Escobar. However, fans were thoroughly entertained before the match had even begun.
That was thanks to Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja. The seven-year-old had the honor of singing the national anthem before kickoff. As you can see from the video above, the young girl very much stole the show. Being watched by 73,000 in attendance and thousands more around the world clearly had no effect on her ability to perform. There were clearly influences from a number of singers in her performance and she nailed them all.
If the crowd wasn't ready and raring to go before Malea sang the national anthem, they certainly were once she was done. The seven-year-old got a rousing response from the Atlanta crowd, and deservedly so. Malea thanked the MLS for the opportunity via her Instagram account. Remember her name as if her performance this past weekend is anything to by, she has an extremely bright future ahead of her.