Saturday, April 22, 2006

How popular is Soccer in USA and what is its future

So how popular is Soccer in the USA, well youth soccer is alive and kicking. Interest in the sport is at its highest level ever, with more than 19 million children six to 19 playing the game on city streets and suburban pitches. More kids are participating in organized soccer than peewee football, youth basketball or Little League baseball. For these children, soccer is more than a pastime, it's a passion.

So why do Soccer kids follow NBA, NFL and MLB once they stop playing soccer.


The factors against soccer being popular in the USA.
  • The perception of soccer fans of the MLS and the manliness of soccer
  • There are not enough spectacular plays to show in sportscentre
  • Majority of talking heads in USA hold soccer with disdain
  • The soccer games could end in a draw, US public need a result when investing their time in watching a game.
  • Its takes to long to score a goal in soccer so not good for majority of sports fans who have attention disorders
  • Competition for time of NFL, NBA and MLB and other entertainment sources
  • There doesn’t seem to be a soccer tradition in US eg Hall of Fame and old soccer players talking about their past experience
  • Only one game every week
  • There is no fantasy league


The following is the Major League Attendance. Interesting that number of fans has increased every year for the last five years but not substantially. Attendance to MLS is not a good indicator though as a significant number of soccer fans in USA hold the MLS with disdain due to the quality of the competition but interesting that MLS season-ticket sales rose by 25% this off-season, the highest jump in league history, I also like the way new Houston team is being marketed


MLS ATTENDANCE SUMMARY 1996-2005

Year

G

Total

Average

Growth

Median*

1996

160

2,785,001

17,406


15,093

1997

160

2,339,019

14,619

-16.0%

12,733

1998

192

2,747,897

14,312

-2.1%

11,871

1999

192

2,742,102

14,282

-0.2%

12,973

2000

192

2,641,085

13,756

-3.7%

12,690

2001

158

2,363,859

14,961

+8.8%

13,431

2002

140

2,214,878

15,821

+5.7%

14,108

2003

150

2,234,397

14,898

-5.8%

13,719

2004

150

2,333,797

15,559

+4.4%

13,285

2005

192

2,900,716

15,108

-2.9%

12,619

TOTAL

1,686

25,303,092

15,008

-13.2%

13,188




As people reading the Really blog will know that I am sports mad but I don’t post much about soccer.

In fact the World Cup soccer is one my best sporting events, but the number of soccer matches I watch in the world cup would nearly match the number of matches in the four year period between World Cups.

Actually last year I watched my first live soccer match in over a decade when Fiji played India and it was enjoyable. But for me there is a strong social barrier in watching soccer as Fijians watch rugby and Indians watch Soccer. I am guessing in USA that may also be a factor but once the soccer kids have kids of there own and their kids favourite sporting star is a hyped soccer player then soccer will threatening one of the top three sport in the US.

Soccer is easily the most popular game in the world but the three countries in which I have lived soccer has been one of the most popular sports played but not watched as Aussie Rule and Rugby is a similar game but has more action and violence.

My Experience in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji is that there is a social barrier in terms of the type/enthnicity of people that follow soccer. Mainly because we didn’t play competitive soccer as kids.



For Soccer to be more popular, the following needs to happen
  • Add extra value with a viable fantasy league and betting
  • Need talking heads to start supporting soccer which will happen as more soccer playing presenters/reporters get into the media
  • Promote players not teams as that is how the best sports are presented in US.
  • Promote the meme of home grown talent playing the sport
  • Percentage of Soccer playing parents with soccer playing kids hits criticical mass.
  • Perception of MLS changes to be a strong competition which means one of the MLS teams will have to beat Champions league winner and Brazilian club champions.
  • Have old soccer players talks about the sport in the old days so start the perception of soccer tradition.
  • Continuing trend of Latino’s/immigration taking up more of the US population
  • Soccer becomes financially competitive for US kids growing up e.g more money being a soccer star then a NBA star which means get rid of the 2 million dollar salary cap eg New York Yankees



I think the most important factor for the populatity of soccer in the USA will be a cultural change which is happening now as the kids that played soccer get older and have kids, the perception of soccer followers will change. I would bet that by at least one more generation soccer will have made significant inroads against Basketball or Baseball. The edge for NFL though is homegrown talent, violence and non guaranteed contracts.

5 Comments:

Blogger Jake Silver said...

very interesting , George. I especially like how you added the things soccer should do to become popular. So do you write these articles from scratch or do you find them and tweak them?

11:25 pm  
Anonymous George said...

In this article only the first paragraph and attendance stats is what I found on the net.

Everything else just comes from to much browsing/watching tv and personal experience.

Interesting to see on ESPN today they are showing more soccer highlights and a sportcentre add was discussing the word soccer

Some of my latest posts though are lists I am copying and the comment on

11:37 pm  
Blogger Yan said...

the current approach is simply not working. Soccer needs to be made hip on an urban level. See my Post on this. Or read the whole thing

6:36 am  
Anonymous Mark said...

Interesting -I'm a Brit in UK but interested in US sports - US just out of World Cup - but on PTI they talked of soccer now becoming more talked about on TV - so perhaps things look brighter...my perception is based on MLS website videos - the crowds fluctuate - but I do sense that 'critical mass' is only a few years away. So, with expansion who knows?

11:17 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kim said interesting this sight is very good and makes people want to learn more about soccer like me for instants.

1:11 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home