In a year when Americans had to suffer through a World Cup where their country wasn’t competing, the sport of soccer(futbol) continues to make strides in America. According to a December 2017 poll by Gallup.com on America’s Favorite Sport, Soccer increased popularity by 3%, the largest increase of any major sport in North America.
As expected, Football led the way in popularity at 37%, however, amid CTE issues and recent National Anthem protests, the sport has seen a big decrease in popularity over the last 10 years. Since the poll was last taken in 2013, the number of football viewers is down from 39% to 37%, a steady decline in popularity for a sport that was as high as 43% in 2007.
Basketball comes in as the 2nd favorite sport on the list at 11%, down 1% from its 2013 12% rating. Baseball, which has seen the biggest drop in popularity over the years, came in at 9% a total of 4% decrease. Often considered America’s pastime, baseball hasn’t been the most popular sport in America since 1972 and has been forced to look at adopting rule changes to help the sports continued decline in popularity.
Overall, the top 3 major sports football, basketball and baseball all decreased in popularity over the last 4 years and the 4th, hockey, registered a lower percent than soccer.
So where does this leave the sport of Soccer on the list of major sports in America? That’s a tricky question.
The Soccer in America faces is not the popularity as an overall sport as much as it is the popularity of Major League Soccer. Right now, the MLS is the only major sport in North America that does not draw the best players from its country to its own league. The NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL get the best athletes from the US because their league is considered the best in the world. Since leagues such as the English Premier League, Serie A, the Champions League, Bundesliga, etc. are so established as the best leagues in the world, the MLS teams will often times have the 100th best player in the world be the best player in the league. Until the USA can begin sending the best home grown athletes to its country own professional league, THEN we will be able to have success at the international level.
The MLS understands this issue and continues to look for ways to increase the viewership and popularity of the league in America. One way was to continue expansion of teams in North America cities to help promote soccer growth in areas without any established teams or leagues. The newest team will be the 25th franchise in MLS history and will be located in Miami. The franchise hired a big name to lead the organization and a man with plenty of experience playing and succeeding on the greatest stage. That man was David Beckham and in his press conference alluded for the need to keep more young American talent in the MLS,
“Yes, we want to build a team and bring in top players from Europe, but the thing we are most interest in is the homegrown talent,” said David Beckham during the unveiling of Miami MLS at the Adrienne Arsht Center. “We will bring a state-of-the-art-academy. I’ve seen that when you bring homegrown kids into a team like this, that is when a community is built and you are proud of your team.”
Where does the MLS and US soccer popularity go from here?
In our opinion, sit tight and let the process continue to unfold. Soccer has entered a time where it’s considered a major sport in America. A time where internationally our country has failed expectations and it has not effected the sports growth. A time where more youth are kicking a soccer ball then throwing a baseball or football. AND, more important than all the rest, soccer has entered a time where 8 years from now the USA will combine to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the biggest tournament in the world is on display on our HOME soil.
So, while you watch the remainder of the World Cup and are disappointed your home country isn’t in the mix, just remind yourself the grass is getting greener and better times are on the horizon. Numbers never lie and if these Gallup numbers are proof, Soccer is a major sport in America and it is here to stay. Pay very close attention over the next 8 years because the history books of America Soccer may be writing its most important pages.
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