L.A. Galaxy boss Bruce Arena's phone rang early Wednesday morning with the most powerful man in the world on the other end. Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to make a congratulatory phone call to an MLS Cup-winning coach, according to the league website.
Obama called Arena to congratulate him and the Galaxy for winning MLS Cup 2011. Los Angeles defeated the Houston Dynamo 1-0 on Nov. 20 to win its third Major League Soccer championship.
The presidential phone call is one of the great traditions in American sports. He often calls the winning coach in the locker room after the game but — after being overlooked past Presidents for 15 years — the U.S. soccer community will accept Obama's nine-day delay. It is nothing less than further proof that soccer has cemented a place in the American sporting Landscape.
Obama also invited the team to visit the White House — another custom in American sports — in the spring or summer.
"The president said, as a soccer fan, he wanted to let coach Arena know that the team inspired a lot of young soccer players, including his kids," the White House said in a statement.
"The president congratulated coach Arena on all that the team has done for the game of soccer and asked him to pass along his congratulations to Landon Donovan, David Beckham and the rest of the team."
Obama is not the first president with whom Arena has spoken. When he was manager of the U.S. men's national team in 2002, George W. Bush called to wish the team good luck before its round-of-16 contest with Mexico. The Americans would go on to beat their rivals 2-0.
Arena and the Galaxy are in Indonesia for their postseason tour of Southeast Asia and Australia. They defeated an Indonesian select team 1-0 Wednesday in the first leg of the tour. They travel to Manila, Philippines for a game against that country's national team Saturday. The MLS champions then head to Australia and take on the A-League club Melbourne Victory on Monday.