When you mention the word soccer to the average American, they are likely to deride it as a low-scoring game watched by non-English speakers. In fact, soccer has often been treated like the red-headed step child of sports in America and dismissed by mainstream sports journalists. But that is changing. Soccer is a sport that has increasingly become as American as baseball. If you go to small-town America, you will likely see a soccer field standing alongside a baseball diamond.
Here are some facts that show the growing power of soccer in the United States:
- It's all over cable. About 20 years ago, soccer fans had to search their cable channels to find a game, but now there are two major networks exclusively dedicated to soccer, FOX Soccer Channel and GOL TV. Also major tournaments such as the World Cup, the European Championship, the Champions League and domestic competitions such as the English Premier League and La Liga (the Spanish league) are regularly shown on ESPN. In fact, the World Cup has now become a major deal, and it's not unusual to see groups of people watching TV sets during the tournament. According to the New York Times, more than 24 million people watched the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and Holland. The audience was larger than 2011's World Series game between the Yankees and the Phillies.
- Soccer has a huge youth following. While soccer is seen as an urban sport in other parts of the world, in America it has grown in the suburbs, where parents were attracted by the chance for participation and the lack of physical contact in soccer. The terms soccer mom and minivan have become associated with the game. According to the New York Times, the American Soccer Federation states that the number of youth soccer players has doubled to 4.04 million since 1990.
- MLS. America's 16-year-old soccer league, Major League Soccer (MLS), is growing steadily and attracting top talent from around the world such as World Cup winner Thierry Henry and global superstar David Beckham. Beckham's acquisition was a major coup for MLS, because he was able to achieve crossover appeal to mainstream America through appearances on "The Today Show" and "The Late Show With David Letterman." According to Sports Business Life, the LA Galaxy is worth $4.4 million and recently signed a 10-year, $44 million deal with Herbalife. America now has its own home-grown star in Landon Donavon, who plays for MLS champions LA Galaxy. MLS also signed an eight-figure television rights deal with MP & Silva, according to Sports Business Journal.
- Americans have realized the financial power that soccer has. European teams such as Manchester United, AC Milan and Celtic regular tour America each summer, because of the TV revenue and the chance to increase their fan base. It is not uncommon to see young teens wearing the shirts of major European club sides. In addition, many American investors have bought stakes in English Premier League sides such as Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. The National newspaper reported that the 20th Annual Review of Football Finance by Deloitte stated that EPL revenue was more than $3billon in 2009-2010.
So considering the financial power of soccer, both in the US and abroad, the impact of the game on pop culture and the growth of stars, such as David Beckham and Landon Donavan, it's safe to say that if soccer is not a major sport, it's going to be one very soon.
Manny Otiko, founder of Otiko Communications, has worked in the public relations and journalism field for about 15 years as a journalist and a media relations specialist. He is currently promoting Christopher Otiko’s medical thriller “Santa,” which is available as an ebook on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It is also available in print at Lulu.com and via PayPal for $1.99. (E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.) For more information visit Author Christopher Otiko on Facebook. To read the first chapters of “Santa,” go to http://bit.ly/santaebook