Soccer is slowly but steadily growing in America!
This is especially true in the last few years where the MLS has gained more popularity and attention not only from American people but also from all over the world …
… But, is Soccer Popular in America?
Reality is, Soccer is popular only to a small minority in America. According to a study by Gallup in 2018, only 7% of Americans answered soccer to be their favorite sport.
In short, it’s not that popular currently when compared to the rest of the world, but that will soon change sooner than later.
Reasons Why soccer is not that popular in USA?
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Here are five reasons soccer is not popular in the USA:
- American culture does not include soccer.
- Not being number one at something is a turnoff.
- There has to be a winner, and a loser.
- Too many flops.
- Big scores equal more fun to watch, which is something soccer lacks.
By the way, you can also learn about why US men soccer team is that as good as they should be … You will find that quite interesting and fun to read!
If you ask the average American what is America’s favorite pastime then you would expect to hear baseball. It’s an old saying that has stuck with Americans for many generations. However, the Super Bowl might have some Americans saying otherwise.
Football originates from America, along with basketball and baseball. It’s no wonder these sports are dominated by American players. Soccer does not have a place in American culture as much as other countries do.
When put up against the rest of the world, since soccer is a global sport, America is no match to most countries. All the reason not to compete, much less add it into the culture. For Americans, not being number one is a turnoff.
It’s no doubt Americans are proud of their achievements, as all countries should be. But the fact that other countries dominate the sport does not give many American citizens the reason to cheer for their home team. Much less have an interest in the sport.
Moving on to the next reason, the competitive nature instilled in American sports means there must be a winner and a loser. The idea of a tie is foreign and sometimes absurd to sports lovers in America..
Someone has to be the winner, which means someone has to be a loser. All the strategizing and will to win only to be a draw does not make much sense to Americans.
Flops happen in any sport. A good flop could disrupt an opposing team if they get hit with a penalty. But, soccer seems to be plagued with players who flop a little too hard and obvious.
You don’t find much flopping in football, basketball, and baseball. If you do find examples, they are never comparable to the ones you find in soccer. It has become such an issue that there are plenty of YouTube compilations highlighting these flops.
Soccer is a contact sport, and Americans expect the same kind of brutality they see on a football field. Without the theatrics. If a player is genuinely hurt then that is one thing, but a light touch that results in a player flailing around is another.
Sports such as football and basketball have high ending scores. More scoring means more action. At least to your average sports lover in the States. It means something is happening and plays are being executed.
Watching a full match in hopes of a single goal is torture.
Patience is not an American ideal in sports. All the teamwork, strategy, and excellently executed skill results in a goal. However, that takes time that most do not want to invest in. People in America want something to cheer for often, not rarely.
Reasons why Soccer is actually Gaining Popularity Lately!
Although soccer may not be as popular as the big three in America, interest has surely seen a surge in recent years.
- MLS has introduced players that turned into household names.
- Television broadcasting.
- Younger people are showing an interest faster than their counterparts.
- Soccer’s global presence on the internet.
- MLS expansion in the United States.
Names like Beckham, Ronaldo, Messi, Rooney, Ibrahimovic have become household names in recent years.
Thanks to the MLS, Americans have become aware of Ronaldo’s athletic superiority. Somewhat of an anomaly, Ronaldo has proven his athleticism which has led many Americans to reconsider what it means to be a professional soccer player.
Technical players like Messi are fun to watch even if you don’t know the sport. Beckham on the other hand skyrocketed to fame. People in the States do not know his stats, but they could easily identify him. All of this adds into a boost in interest.
Today’s world is full of opposing viewpoints. Regardless of what side of the fence a person is on, the conversation will continue to go on without them. Large corporations have decided to get involved and whether or not this is a good thing is up for debate.
Since 1996, the MLS has been broadcasting matches. For a little over two decades, interest has continued to climb. As a result of this climb, networks such as ESPN and Fox Sports have invested a combined $75 million per season to broadcast as many games as possible.
More options and increased availability gives viewers the opportunity to enjoy more soccer. Thus passing on their passion to other potential fans.
Just like hobbies, without new people the sport will never catch on. Fortunately younger fans are popping up faster than older people. Some people are not willing to give room for another sport. The big three are enough for them.
However, more high school students are joining the soccer team than ever before. More schools are now offering soccer as an extracurricular activity. According to Statista, “The number of participants in U.S. high school soccer programs has recorded an all-time high in the 2018/19 season, with over 850 thousand boys and girls playing the sport across the country.”
How did this surge in popularity happen with younger people?
Just like everything else that gains popularity with young people, the internet played a huge role. Unlike previous generations who were only exposed to soccer in person, or if they were lucky enough to catch a game on TV.
Nowadays, soccer is more accessible than ever before. YouTube has plenty of perfectly edited compilation videos that will get anyone excited for the sport. It’s easy to see why people would gravitate to the sport.
Above all else, the MLS is making progress towards making soccer more mainstream in America. One step in the right direction is adding more teams to the league – Miami and Nashville are next to be added.
Teams being added to the league is a strong indication for the rise in popularity.
What I’ve said in this paragraph reminds me a lot of Japan … Indeed, you can learn more about Soccer in Japan … I think you will find that very useful!
Where is soccer most popular in the United States?
According to Wallethub’s 2019 chart, the eastern part of America is where soccer is the most popular.
The top three soccer cities are:
- Los Angeles
- Salt Lake City
And it should be no surprise each city has a MLS team.
The larger the city, or heavy populated, the more likely to draw a bigger crowd or more local pickup games.
Looking over the data, you can see how major cities, not necessarily capitals, have large numbers of soccer fans.
Here are some numbers to give you perspective of these cities …
… After the win at the Women’s World Cup in France attendance skyrocketed for matches in America. The Chicago Red Stars had a record breaking attendance of 17,338 people the day after the World Cup. A typical attendance the previous season averaged 4,368 fans.
The Utah Royals had a record breaking attendance of 15,391 – the previous season average was 9,466.
Even smaller cities such as Boyds, Maryland broke records. From an average of 3,892, to a record 5,500.
Any major city with a MLS team is guaranteed to have a following. For now, the east coast dominates in popularity. And that will only increase if Los Angeles falls in ranking.
Here is What I Suggest to make Soccer Big in the US …
In order to make soccer big in the US, the MLS will have to expand westward. Los Angeles is the epicenter for soccer. Middle America is an untapped market. There is not much for them to cheer for.
Adding in Miami and Nashville to the league is the best move in order to make soccer more popular.
Once more major cities have a team, then from there each city can capitalize on the interest their team builds up.
It is obvious younger people have an interest. If local clubs and leagues can partner with schools and youth centers than more local teams can be created.
A simple plan is:
- MLS introduce more teams
- More minor league teams that the MLS can pull from.
- Minor leagues partner with local clubs whether practices or event sponsoring.
- Local clubs partner with schools and youth centers to help more children enjoy the sport.
Ideally, the growth of soccer is dependent on the pro level. Once the pro level develops a presence, then the growth can spread to the lower levels.
How the future looks like?
The future of soccer in America looks bright. More students are joining their school’s team and the MLS is expanding.
The World Cup is returning to North America in 2026, and that may be the final push to add soccer into the big 3 – making it the big 4.
Final Thoughts …
To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised to see soccer as the number 1 sport by 2050 and beyond! You can say whatever you want about this sport, but the reality is, it is contagious in a positive way.
American lack of knowledge about soccer is what’s making it not that popular …
… In other words, once they recognize what’s the game is all about, it would be hard to ignore it!
In the end, I highly encourage you to learn on how soccer has grown in popularity in China in the last few years! You will find that really helfpul …