The sport of soccer, also known as football around the world, has never achieved mainstream relevance in the United States. While there are millions of people who enjoy playing and watching soccer in the USA, sports such as baseball, American football, and basketball have reigned supreme.
Whether because people are checking soccer odds from sports books in their area or they want to follow the English Premier League, more and more Americans are tuning in to the “beautiful game” stateside.
Once seen as the least popular sport in America, soccer has grown significantly in the past 10 to 15 years. Soccer has now overtaken ice hockey in terms of popularity, while it is coming for other sports as well.
Below is a rundown of how and why the sport of soccer has become such a phenomenon in the United States.
Women’s Team Successes
A significant reason for the sport becoming more popular in the United States is the success of the women’s team on the international stage. Over the past 15 years, the United States Women’s National Team has claimed countless trophies.
American women have won the World Cup and Olympic Gold, along with other important tournaments. Such success means that Americans are more likely to tune in when they next play, as they enjoy watching a team that is successful.
Many women’s soccer players are cultural icons in the United States. While Mia Hamm was likely the first such soccer player, there are now countless such women, like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.
Television Coverage of European Leagues
If you were living in the United States in the early 2000s, watching soccer on television was a serious challenge. ESPN did have rights to some matches, but they would rarely show them on their primary channels. Most soccer games were relegated to cable channels that you had to pay a lot of money to add onto already expensive packages.
The advent of streaming has changed everything for soccer. Now you can catch matches from the English Premier League with a basic cable subscription through the USA network. There is also the option of signing up for Peacock for a few dollars a month to watch live games.
Other matches are available on major channels such as CBS and FOX, while ESPN is also retaining a lot of rights to soccer action. Since the top European leagues and clubs, including Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, and Bayern Munich, are easier to watch, Americans are more likely to become passionate about soccer.
Events such as the World Cup are also easy to watch in the USA these days.
The Influx of Immigrants Around the United States
The influx of immigrant populations around the United States, especially in states in the Midwest and the South, has changed the way Americans think about soccer. The sport is now enjoyed by the average American to almost the same extent as American football and basketball, as there are so many people who have immigrant friends who are into soccer and may get them to follow the sport as well.
Having so many immigrants in a city also means that professional soccer teams are likely to set up there and stay. That is why areas such as Nashville, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia are now hubs for outstanding MLS teams, which would have been unthinkable in the past.
There is no denying that a cultural shift has taken place for the sport in this country, which appears as though it may be here to stay.
Expansion and Fan-Friendliness of Major League Soccer
The MLS has expanded to many new parts of the United States that did not have a chance to enjoy soccer teams in person. Whether you live in California, Nevada, Washington, North Carolina, Tennessee, or Texas, you can find an MLS team that is within driving distance of where you live.
These teams are creating fantastic atmospheres in their stadiums, as tickets are affordable and local fans are encouraged to attend. MLS matches are also easy to find on TV, which makes them even more popular.
Is Soccer’s Growth the Real Deal?
What many fans may be asking is whether the growth of soccer in the United States is a fad or if the sport is here to stay. There is no definitive answer, as only time will tell whether soccer can hold its own against the most popular sports in America in the next ten to twenty years.
The only certainty is that more Americans care about soccer now compared to ten years ago. Finding European soccer games on television is easier; most major cities have a professional team that is accessible and affordable to watch, and both the men’s and women’s teams are making an impression on the international stage.
Soccer may be at peak popularity worldwide, but there is plenty of growth opportunity for this sport in the United States.