So admit it, you watched at least part of one World Cup soccer game on TV, right? Maybe you even checked out scores on your phone or finally understood how an offside call is determined? You weren’t alone – an estimated 26 million in the U.S. saw Germany beat Argentina in the final match on English and Spanish language broadcasts via small screens and mobile apps. Millions more tuned in all month long to cheer on the men’s national team as they battled through the “group of death” and lost by only 1 – 0 to the eventual tournament champions.
In addition to all the hype came the question that gets asked every four years when a new World Cup tournament gets underway, “Will soccer finally take off in America?” Well, it has, depending on your measuring stick.
The view of the American pro sports spectrum from 10,000 feet looks like this: The greatest baseball, football, basketball and ice hockey players in the world play in our four major professional sports leagues. Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA and NHL feature the highest level of talent, competition and salaries. The same can’t be said for soccer, where the greatest players in the world earn tens of millions of euros playing for premier league teams in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Yes, soccer – better known across the “pond” as football – is a much more established sport in those countries and elsewhere around the world, but that shouldn’t imply that soccer is somehow, “un-American.”
Now let’s look at the sports spectrum from a ground-level, amateur, 10-year-old point of view. You’d have to try really hard not to find a youth soccer league within your park district or surrounding community. In fact, around three million boys and girls between the ages of 5 – 19 are registered players with US Youth Soccer, which is the nation’s largest youth sports organization. Soccer’s popularity is very healthy among younger players and major TV sports networks are catering to audiences of young players and adults, including ESPN, which carried the World Cup and NBC Sports Network, which carries live English Premier League games featuring powerhouses such as Manchester United and Chelsea.
Let’s also consider the tens of thousands who packed football stadiums and parks for World Cup viewing parties. So on the sports popularity scale, soccer is challenging for first place among fans of all ages. On the elite level, it’s not quite at NFL status just yet, but the world’s most popular sport definitely has a place at America’s table – not just the kiddie table.
Eric Scott is a Pioneer Press community contributor and former TV newscast producer now working in corporate communications. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Lincolnshire Lightning Travel Soccer Club and on the Stevenson High School Foundation’s Communications Committee. Interested in writing or blogging for the Pioneer Press? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions also can be made here.
Tags: Eric Scott, World Cup