Soccer shows growing popularity in the USA. A few decades ago, basketball has dominated the American sports scene. Likewise, baseball and American football enjoyed the attention from the public.
When the 1994 World Cup was hosted in the US, it became a turning point for soccer fans in America. After all, they knew the game and was excited to see its roster of star players. Major League Soccer (MLS) was eventually formed, setting the rise of the sport in motion. Today, soccer has become a favorite sport among the kids, with some even joining or forming Youth Soccer leagues.
But the growth of soccer as well as the garnering of admiration from the American sports community doesn’t happen overnight. It would take the same time as basketball and other renowned American sports to gain the same success.
Major League Soccer
MLS is a major professional sports league in the United States and Canada. It was founded in 1996, two years after the United States hosted the FIFA World Cup. Its first season started with ten teams.
Despite the league’s slow start, it was able to secure the good number of advertising and television contracts, all of which gave soccer an exposure in the American sports media. Fifteen years since its inception, MLS is attracting more people. Recently, the league was able to get sports coverage from Univision, Fox Sports, and ESPN.
While soccer received interest through MLS, its fame didn’t seem to grow until 2007. MLS signed an eight-year contract with ESPN starting that year, which sparked the league’s first national TV coverage. Also, the English star player, David Beckham joined LA Galaxy in 2007, paving the way for MLS’ designated player rule and the trend of international players joining the league.
In 2015, MLS has an average of 21,574 fans per game, a significant 12.7 percent increase from the previous year, even more than the NHL or NBA. 2015 also marked the extension of MLS’ deal with ESPN, as well as contracts with Fox Sports and Univision. Currently, the league gained TV deals all over the globe and is being broadcast in 140 countries.
US Soccer Facilities
There are a number of world-class sports facilities and youth programs in the United States. Overland Park Complex in Kansas is one of the best. But the demand for tournament facilities certainly grew. Now, several states such as Arizona, North Carolina, and Kentucky built sports facilities, amounting to over 10 fields.
Facilities provide the means to create better soccer players, and it also increases the excitement of the fans toward the sports along with the growth of soccer leagues.
Soccer in Professional Sports Scene
Different communities in the United States gave their effort to supply the demand for better players in the professional sports scene. Leagues such as MLS, USL, and NASL looked forward for expansion. Cities wanted to place their soccer teams in the MLS roster someday. It has been successful for cities like Atlanta and Orlando. The latter’s MLS team has an average of 34,393 fans per game, the second place in MLS, only behind Seattle Sounders FC’s fanbase of 40.236.
Investors also began to notice the presence of minor league teams like Google’s proposal of new soccer facilities in different parts of the country.
American soccer fans will see more growth in the years ahead. After all, the United States represents the largest license fee-paying country in the World Cup. Global soccer leagues might start to spend more time and effort to engage with the U.S. and Canadian markets in the near future.
Though MLS has faced challenges, it has made huge leaps over the past years. Eventually, soccer will leave a mark in American sports as it constantly gains popularity.