The Culture Surrounding Soccer in the United States Compared to the Rest of the World

By David Peto ‘23

Soccer is by far the most popular sport in the world, totalling 3.5 billion fans, but in the United States soccer is not followed as religiously as in other parts of the world. At face value it is merely a low scoring sport, often ending in 0-0, where players kick around a ball, but most soccer fans do not watch soccer for the goals, but instead for the emotional connection they have to the sport and the simple beauty the sport bestows.

The largest reason for soccer not being popular in the US is because of the historically mediocre success of the National team. In a country that strives to be first place in everything, the only near first place World Cup finish was third place in 1930. Teams on the domestic level are not nearly as talented as teams competing for UEFA Champions League titles, and this means that when a team wins the MLS they are not automatically crowned the champions of the world like an NFL, NBA, or MLB team. 

Money factors into the equation as well, particularly in relation to advertising and marketing. Soccer cannot garner funding from advertisers as easily as other major sports since commercials are only shown at halftime, as compared to in the NFL where commercials can be shown at the end of a quarter or half, timeout, change of possession, field goal try, two-point conversion, injury timeout, two-minute warning, and instant replay challenges. The average NFL broadcast shows 63 minutes of commercials whereas a Champions League game averages 11 minutes. This advertising dearth has been changing though, with Fox implementing in-game advertising into their MLS games, allowing for 16 possible ad slots. 

Brand marketing is also made more difficult because the average American sports fan recognizes a handful of soccer players, compared to being able to name the entire roster of their favorite NBA team.

Comparably low scoring games, lack of advertising funding, and little brand marketing, causes the sport to be overlooked. If the public is not constantly surrounded by and immersed in soccer content, as they are with other sports, then they will never feel the same connection to soccer as a fan in South America or Europe or Africa. 

Soccer will likely never be as popular and influential in the US as the other top sports, but with an increase in the youth soccer scene and very talented young professional players, namely Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Chris Richards, and Zach Stefen, playing in top European leagues, soccer could see a rise in US popularity.

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