Just to give you a heads up, soccer isn’t going to replace American football nor baseball any time soon. Basketball fans shouldn’t worry either, not for quite some time, anyway.
It cannot be denied that soccer is slowly winning its fans in the US, and people working in the industry or watching sports cannot hide the fact that soccer is coming strong in the US.
More and more US kids are playing soccer, and there are actually more soccer teams than baseball teams- which isn’t quite the news, though.
What do the numbers say?
You only have to watch Television to make an idea about what’s going on with soccer. For instance, NBC Universal aired English Premier League matches on many channels, with ratings being more than surprisingly good.
It seems that 30 million have watched the Premier League matches, which is double than the views of the previous years. Every game has a range of 440,000 viewers, as compared to the 221,000 the year before. NBC actually aired all ten matches live across the channels for the season-ending.
Truth be told, incredible doesn’t even get to describe the fact that people are watching a foreign game on US television.
American soccer-what’s the history there?
It was the late 1800s when soccer made an appearance on American soil, but it was only the 1920s when people actually began to dig it.
It’s because, in the 1920s, the US was in the middle of the manufacturing boom, and numerous immigrants from Europe got to the US to work in factories, mills, and plants. Needless to say, they also brought soccer with them. In 1921, the American Soccer League (ASL) was born, and it was the first pro soccer competition that mattered.
The league slowly thrived, and in 1930 the US team managed to win third place at the inaugural World Cup in Uruguay. We should highlight that many top European teams didn’t attend the competition, though! Sadly, by 1931, ASL collapsed from all fighting in the league, which is why soccer disappeared from the map for four decades.
Taking a leap over the years, in 1967, the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) was crated, but it even last more than one season.
People loving soccer didn’t give up, though, and the North American Soccer League (NASL) was put together and stayed semi-pro for ten years or so.
However, it was Pele (probably the most famous soccer player of all time) that signed with New York Cosmos that draw the attention of people on soccer and even throw soccer into the mainstream.
In 1984, the NASL disappeared and it took a decade until the sport got back on track. In 1994, FIFA decided to host the 1994 World Cup in the US. It goes without saying that the tournament exceeded all attendance records (to this day!). However, soccer was still fighting to get into American’s hearts.
Slowly, yet surely, the Major League Soccer was born, unlike its predecessors, it didn’t disappear.
The USA hosted the Women’s World Cup at the end of the 90s, and the men’s team got better with every year.
In 2010, in South Africa, the US team was able to go through the knockout stages. The stressful game against Algeria caught attention and finally won the interests of the US people. At last, the tournament taking place every four years got people interested.
With soccer being the most popular sport around the world, it makes perfect sense that the World Cup taking place every four years is an excellent opportunity for both political and economic benefits to happen.
Television doesn’t hold back anymore, and ESPN, for instance, broadcast all games from the World Cup. It’s around 300 hours of original programming across the TV channels and online, casting the whole 64 matches, but also the pre and post-match shows. Televisions are always sending only their very best and award-winning reporters for covering the World Cup.
Going back to the numbers, it seems that more than 40% of Americans see themselves as pro soccer fans. And when the World Cup is taking place really close to the US, one can only understand why so many tickets are sold in the US, more than in any other nation besides the host (Brazil). It’s unbelievable for many, but we can now describe the US as a soccer nation, which was impossible to say a decade ago.
How many people are playing/watching soccer nowadays in the US?
Twenty-four clubs are competing in the MLS at the moment, with three more still waiting to join. If in the beginning in 1996, there were only ten clubs, it was expected for 2019 to be 28 or 29.
Eight teams enjoyed an increased audience for the last season, but some did experience double-digit drops.
Let’s not forget to mention that cable viewership is increasing as we speak, and there are professional soccer players at all levels. The expansion over the last 15 years makes the people in soccer hope and have confidence in MLF clubs expansion.
Even if the US soccer team wasn’t successful in the World Cup, the people are still interested in soccer in the US. The presence of foreign clubs, which are increasing their influence through international offices, academies, preseason friendlies, digital contents, and participating in the International Champions Cup (ICC) sure counts a lot for soccer’s success in the US.
Major European soccer clubs (Bayern Munich and FC. Barcelona are only some to name) have offices in New York City. In contrast, Bundesliga and LaLiga have an on-ground presence in the US.
Soccer is growing in the last 10-15 years in America, and the ICC does contribute a lot to the growth and development. I think it’s worth mentioning that the betting industry helped spreading soccer’s popularity. Websites like TwinSpires became very popular among americans. Professional soccer players do like to come and play in US, which can only help with the popularity of the game.
The chances are that, soon enough, soccer will get in the top 3 most popular sports in the US. Are you ready for it?