Will Soccer Ever Overtake Football in the United States?

MATT SMITH

soccer ball
Art by Caroline Nickerson

Soccer versus football. Two different sports, but both ignite a strong passion in  their respective fan bases worldwide. However, one is the most popular sport in the United States, and the other is not. . We are all aware of the dominant popularity that football has here, but the new studies being released about the harmful effects of the game in terms of head trauma beg the question: could soccer rise to the top?

The requisition for football is simple to comprehend. Fans of the game get a sense of thrill and excitement watching some of the best athletes in the world going head to head, producing some of the biggest bone crushing hits imaginable. In a recent poll conducted in the United States, 42 percent of adults claimed football, both college and professional, to be their favorite sport (sportsbusinessdaily.com). To illustrate the gap, the second favorite sport is baseball, registering at 16 percent. However, with the recent concussion lawsuit in the NFL, some experts believe that the sport may be banned in some school districts. In fact, there has already been a 10 percent decline nationally in youth football participation (newsok.com)!  This opens the door for some competition.

According to that same poll, Men’s Soccer had the biggest jump of all sports in the past year, at 4%. That increase is enough to put them on par with professional basketball and hockey. Certainly the Men’s World Cup in 2014 and the Women’s World Cup in 2015 are  a major causes for this increase in popularity. The Women’s World Cup Finals match between the United States and Japan drew in an audience of 28.3 million viewers (wsj.com).That is more views than the final game of the 2015 Stanley Cup, the 2014 World Series, and the 2015 NBA Finals combined! To wealthy businessmen, this illustrates that there is a potential market to be tapped in the United States. An example of this is can be found in 2015, when the owners of the globally known soccer team, Manchester City, teamed up with the owners of the popular New York Yankees to create the New York City Football Club. The MLS (Major League Soccer) is diversifying itself, boasting 21 established franchises that bring in decent crowds (psmag.com). With the arrival of popular international players in the MLS, such as Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Kaka (just to name a few) it is very feasible that soccer could perhaps challenge football in terms of popularity in the United States.

As with every sport, there is some opposition to soccer here in the United States. Nicholas Gilmore, current student at the University of Florida, stated in an interview that he would, “rather watch a teacher versus student basketball game than the Champions League [the biggest annual soccer match excluding the quadrennial World Cup Finals] Final.”

 If these people let go of their  stereotypes of the game and gave it a chance, they may find an affection for the art of the sport. Of course, football dominates the sports world in the United States today, but with these continuing trends, soccer may one day sit atop of the charts.

Sources:

http://www.psmag.com/business-economics/world-cup-sports-will-soccer-ever-be-as-big-as-football-in-the-united-states-83122

http://www.wsj.com/articles/has-soccer-finally-made-it-in-the-u-s-1436395661

http://newsok.com/article/3927589

http://m.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Daily/Issues/2015/01/28/Research-and-Ratings/Harris-Poll.aspx

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