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Sports Then and Now

US Still Fair Weather Football (Soccer) Fans

Posted on July 31, 2014 by Jeremy Biberdorf
American fans were locked in during the 2014 World Cup, but will they stay excited about soccer over the next four years?

American fans were locked in during the 2014 World Cup, but will they stay excited about soccer over the next four years?

To see the images that flooded American news and social media, one would think that the US lives and breathes football (well…”soccer”). It’s true, United States patriotic spirit was in full bloom during the Americans’ solid run in the most recent World Cup. So what does this mean for lasting nationwide interest in the beautiful game?

It would seem that sentiment is at an all-time high for the red, white, and blue. Never before have so many identified themselves as football fans. But when the rubber meets the road, most US football analytics have not increased within the past decade. The nation has spent more on football merchandise since the 2010 world cup, this much is true. But rabid fandom seems truly dilute nationwide. While some Americans know the names of their nation’s top players, and some could even tell you the latest UK football odds, only 1.2  tickets to this year’s Cup were sold for every 2000 residents.

Compare this to Australia’s turnout. The Aussie’s had to travel twice as far, to root for a far worse team. Australia managed to sell nearly four times as many tickets, per capita. The Americans who watched the World Cup were, for the most part, content to do so at home. During the regular season, none of the three leagues (Major, Premiere, and Champions) average more than 500,000 viewers for broadcast matches. It a nation of more than 300 million, it’s only a drop in the bucket. Compare this to the viewership of the typical American Football game. National Football League games regularly command swarms of viewers in the tens of millions. The total number who catch a single game during the NFL’s “Kick-off Weekend” comes narrowly close to 1 in 3 citizens nationwide.

The future of Americans’ involvement in football/soccer seems uncertain. But certain factors would seem to hold some home for the future. Many forget than until the 1930’s, “soccer” was the 2nd most popular sport in the US. It faded for a number of reasons during the Great Depression, but its popularity has been steadily growing since the 1960’s in youth leagues. Over 3 million US children are officially registered with youth soccer. This number has held steady for over a decade. As a nation of wide diversity, the number of Americans involved in soccer is actually much higher. An estimated 30% of nationwide households have a soccer player, a number totalling as much as 24 million.

Whether the movement will continue to grow in the States, or whether the bubble will burst as it did a century ago, is yet to be seen. America’s swelling immigrant population would lead us to believe that football/soccer is going nowhere, and is likely to grow all the more. But only time will tell. For now, football is an occasional fancy, when the American team is doing well on the international stage. Clearly, there is potential for much more. We can only wait and see what the future holds.

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