Since the turn of the century, pundits from multiple networks, websites, and newspapers have declared that soccer will take over the country here in the United States. Not long after that the chorus kicks in with “They’re Pinky, They’re Pinky and the Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain!”
In those fifteen years, soccer has remained but a blip on the radar of American pop culture, still saddled behind the NFL, NBA, MLB, and even the NHL.
But this silence is not the result of a lack of interest, but rather an inability by the mainstream media to take full advantage of the sport. There are plenty of close-minded correspondents who point to the low number of viewers as proof no one cares. There are also an equal number of pundits who say soccer will dominate the market in as little as two or three years.
The truth lies somewhere in between.
The sport might not be the go to sport for the average American at the drop of a hat for some magical reason in the next year or two, but the numbers show that soccer is growing quicker than any other sport in the country.
For example, according to the New York Times, the 2014 FIFA World Cup match between the USA and Portugal reached an audience of 25 million stateside. That’s 10 million more than the NBA Finals that year, and 11 million more than the World Series.
Consider those are two of the big three in this country. Even more impressive is the massive growth of the MLS, what’s widely believed to be a joke on the world stage just five years ago. In those five years, the MLS has grossed $103 million, a whopping 175% increase.
Still not enough proof for you? Okay, here are 10 sure fire pieces of evidence that prove Soccer will dominate the country within 15 years.
10. MLS Expansion
Let’s focus more on the growth of the MLS first. Not only is their bank account growing, but so is their social footprint. Compared to the other major sports leagues, the MLS is growing a bigger presence on social networks faster than anyone else, according to General Sentiment.
You could argue that’s because we’re already talking about the other leagues and you’d be right, but such a rapid growth shows an increased awareness in our social consciousness.
When you consider more teams are coming to LA, Atlanta, and Minnesota in the near future, the league is also proving it can lay down roots in places that already host multiple sports leagues. Perhaps the most famous new team is coming to Miami, led by former international star David Beckham, which brings us to our next point.
9. International Players and Coaches Joining the MLS
It wasn’t too long ago that the US was a laughing stock in the soccer world. They were the place old players and coaches past their prime went to die.
When David Beckham announced he would play for the LA Galaxy in 2007, many in the US were ecstatic. Finally, an international superstar wanted to play here! Meanwhile, the rest of the country was laughing at our unfounded optimism, saying Beckham was already past his prime. After a rough start, he and Landon Donovan won two championships. At the moment, the league has attracted top names like Kaka, David Villa, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Players who were still playing at a high level in Europe before coming over.
There are also several top coaches from around the world. Adrian Heath from England coaches the new Orlando City SC, Oscar Pareja from Columbia coaches FC Dallas, and Irish coach Owen Coyle is the new man in charge of the Houston Dynamo.
8. Soccer is Airing on Major Sports Channels
It wasn’t so long ago that trying to find a soccer game on TV was like trying to find a unicorn. Major sports channels and websites didn’t mention soccer, let alone broadcast any matches.
Those 25 million views from the 2014 World Cup came from ESPN and ABC, who aired the World Cup over baseball games.
Again, there’s a caveat in the fact there weren’t any other major sporting events going on, but for a country that allegedly views soccer as everyone getting oranges and trophies, that’s not bad.
International friendlies involving the US National team air on a regular basis and Fox Sports has picked up the rights for the upcoming Women’s World Cup.
7. US Players are Becoming Celebrities
Landon Donovan is a household name. We were outraged after coach Jurgen Klinsmann (another international coach in the US) left Donovan off the 2014 Men’s National team. At the peak of his career, many considered him better than teammate David Beckham.
Tim Howard is just as popular. After breaking the record for most saves in a single World Cup match last year, he became a sensation on Twitter with the hashtag #ThingsHowardCouldSave.
Hope Solo is perhaps most famous of all, though that could arguably be attributed to her mouth and penchant for breaking the law.
Regardless, soccer players are picking up national headlines for their play and their personal lives for better or worse.
6. We Care About Where the World Cup is Held
Being Americans, we want everything to revolve around us, even if we wouldn’t care otherwise. We want the World Cup here in America and when that doesn’t happen, we pretend like we all lose interest.
However, that’s no longer the case. Last year, concerns arose about working conditions in Brazil, after hearing about the massive amount of money the country was spending on stadiums just for the event while the nation’s people suffered.
Then there’s the Qatar venue in 2022. A whole list of concerns have arisen from the US over bribery, extreme heat, terrorism, slave labor, LGBT rights, and most importantly the question of alcohol.
The 2018 World Cup will be held in Russia and with the great job they did with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, what’s there to be worried about?
5. Better Performance on the International Stage
Those better ratings, the concern over where the World Cup is held, and that increase in money can be directly attested to one thing: better performance by our international teams.
United States Soccer is no longer a laughing stock, nor is it the world’s doormat. Last year, the United States were placed in the “Group of Death.” Many theorized this was intentional, as everyone hates the United States and want us to lose (which is insane).
Nevertheless, the United States did well. They beat Ghana 2-1 after previously losing to them twice. They tied with Portugal 2-2 despite giving up a late goal and believe it or not the 1-0 loss to Germany was a great game.
The team made it to the group of 16, but lost to Belgium in 2-1 overtime, despite a valiant effort. Now, it’s up to the Women’s team to show the world what they can do come June.
Immigrants from soccer viewing nations provide a large amount of viewership for soccer in the US. Contrary to popular belief, not all of them are rooting for their home country. Just as many that root for their place of birth have adopted the United States as their go to team, and plenty can cheer for multiple countries.
The Hispanic population isn’t the only wants to watch soccer. Those international players and coaches from around the world are bringing in their own fans and families who continue to follow them.
3. Injury Concerns About American Football
This is going to be hard to hear and almost impossible to understand for many of you. The recent injury concerns over head injuries in American football is resulting in parents turning away from football and towards other sports. It might be a small percentage, but we’ll never know which one of the kids who made the NFL could’ve been a star in MLS.
Famous athletes from multiple sports have already said they won’t let their kids play football, including LeBron James, Terry Bradshaw, and even Mark Cuban. Even more shocking is a 2014 report that states that 50% of Americans wouldn’t let their kids play the sport either, according to Business Insider.
Not all of them will end up in soccer, but when you consider the minor declines of the NHL and MLB over the years and the injury concerns over football, soccer seems like the obvious choice.
2. Soccer is More Economically Viable Than Any Other American Sport
For years, the NFL has tried and failed to spread American football outside the US. Baseball and basketball have found more success. The fact of the matter is that no matter how much more the NFL, NBA, and MLB expand in the US (even an NFL team in LA) there isn’t any room for real profit expansion.
Soccer doesn’t have that problem, because it’s by far the biggest sport in the world. Advertisers have already grabbed hold of MLS like any other soccer league, and have plastered team jerseys with ads. We might not like it, but there’s big money involved across the globe.
1. International Teams Playing in the US to Huge Crowds
A ton of international teams are playing their preseason games in the United States and not all of them are playing US teams. Real Madrid and Manchester United played a game at Michigan Stadium last year, and tickets sold out within half an hour. That’s over 109,000 tickets sold in 30 minutes, to watch two non-American teams in America.
Over the coming months, several international friendlies are scheduled across the country. Serbia and Jamaica are playing Houston, Costa Rica and Japan are playing in Tampa, and Ghana and South Korea are playing in Miami, just to name a few.
It says a lot about our viewing habits that we’re willing to attend a match between two famous teams that aren’t American and that we’re knowledgeable enough to realize a great match when we hear about one.
Between the growth in interest at home and the support of the international community, soccer in the US is set up to become a dominant force in the United States. As a new generation of kids and young adults grow up with an increased awareness in the sport, they’ll start to play it more, and watch it more. When those kids get the capacity to spend their money on the sport they love, that’s when soccer will take over the world, Pinky! Or the United States at least…
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