How Can the United States Boost Soccer Popularity?
Soccer has been the most popular sport in the world for the better half of a century. In the United States, it is barely in the top-five. Why is this? To me the answer is simple. USA loves to win. We breed winning.
I mean, for goodness’ sake we have made this T-Shirt popular.
If that doesn’t say that USA loves winners, I don’t know what does.
What sports can bring the country together? USA Basketball whenever they play is a good sample. In the last four Olympics they haven’t done worse than Bronze. We watch swimming whenever Michael Phelps is in the pool because we know an American is going to win. Football is our sport, so, of course, we are going to watch. Two years ago when USA hockey was poised to go further than normal, everyone became hockey fans.
As far as soccer goes, USA Women are the best team in the world (see Women’s World Cup most recent champions) and when they play the country takes notice. In the last 10 years Men’s Soccer has been on the rise in the U.S. because we are better than we ever have been, and even that isn’t great. The country came together for the last two World Cups because USA had a chance to advance past the Group Stage. They had a chance to win.
With the team and sport “on the rise” why isn’t it more popular? Why would people rather watch the Euro 2016 versus the Copa America Centenario? The Copa is being played on American soil and people are still tuning into the Euro. The Euro has close to 60,000 more viewers on average per match. Even when the Copa is being played, the public is tuning in to see Messi. He is the best. He wins.
How Can We Change the Narrative?
Baseball is popular because most Americans grew up watching the best players who were American born. The same can be said about Football and Basketball. America watched their winners develop and become stars. Hockey is the next in popularity but isn’t close to the “Big Three” because the best players have historically been non-American.
It seems the solution for soccer popularity in America is simple (and difficult at the same time). Develop a star. There have been some players that have led the U.S. in popularity. Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and there was a time when Jozy Altidore was considered to be the next big thing. The consensus most popular American player has to be Landon Donovan. He leads the USA National team in goals and the public loves him. Enough to listen to him commentate on the Copa America.
These players were/are great for USA but as far as worldwide talent goes, they have a long road ahead of them. The country needs a STUD. I believe if there is an American-born player that can transcend the game of soccer (as far as U.S. soccer goes) he could pave the way for future popularity. If kids grow up seeing an American being truly great for their team and country, they will want to be like him. They will play soccer instead of using their athletic ability for another sport such as football or basketball.
Getting this player is easier said than done. If we get a star then more stars emerge. If more stars emerge then the MLS can change from a place where players go to end their career. Instead it can morph into a stepping stone for players to become known worldwide. I believe it all starts with one.
A lot of people are speculating that 17 year old, Christian Pulisic can be this player. The guy is 17 and playing for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga league (Germany). One of the better teams in Germany and he is on the squad at that age. He killed it as part of the USA U17 squad and has been called up to play for the USMNT. Could he be the one that leads soccer popularity in America to new heights? I sure hope so. USA is way behind the curve on this one.
P.S. please don’t be upset that I used “soccer” instead of any other name. I simply went with the USA version due to the central topic. Thanks!