America Is Finally Welcoming Soccer With Open Arms

After years of ignoring the rest of the world's favorite sport, soccer is growing in America. The proof is in the numbers.

Soccer is the biggest sport in the world. And in America, it’s growing exponentially by the day. 

This November, billions of fans will unite to celebrate what is likely to be the most watched World Cup in the history of the event. According to Bleacher Report, an estimated 28 million Americans tuned in for the US vs. Portugal game during the 2014 World Cup. By comparison, the 2021 Super Bowl audience was around 208 million, while the 2021 World Series estimated 11.75 million viewers. 

With that being said, it would be misguided not to capitalize on the opportunities soccer is offering in the United States. America’s own league is rising in popularity to match that of global soccer events. 

Major League Soccer began play in the U.S. in 1996. Just in the second growth phase of the league (2015–2022), the MLS is in the process of turning an 18-team league into a 28-team league, with St. Louis City SC set to start playing in 2023. 

MLS Second Growth Phase (2015–2022):

2015: New York City FC and Orlando City SC begin play

2017: Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC

2018: Los Angeles FC 

2019: FC Cincinnati

2020: Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC

2021: Austin FC

2022: Charlotte FC

As of 2022, the LAFC is at the top of the MLS’ most valuable franchises list (Sportico). Los Angeles FC is officially worth $900 million, while the average MLS team is worth $582 million. In comparison to the NHL, a top-watched league in the US, the average NHL team was worth $653 million in 2020, then increased to $865 million in 2021

According to Sportico, “While the NFL is the richest and most powerful sports league in the world, MLS arguably offers a stronger and deeper roster of owners,” (Badenhausen). These owners are consistently making new moves to grow the MLS and its teams to powerful proportions. They are building lavish stadiums and proposing new teams every year. For example, Cincinnati’s team is working on developing their club and amenities: “Cincinnati FC already closed LP investments this year at a $700 million valuation, according to multiple sources, and is now looking to raise funds at levels close to $800 million, nearly 50% higher than our $550 million estimate,” (Badenhausen).

As for viewership, ESPN Press Room reports the 2022 MLS All-Star Game viewership increased 86% from the 2021 game. The 2022 All-Star Game was “the most viewed MLS All-Star Game on a US English language network since 2018,” (Nwulu). The top 10 market cities of the game represented the entire United States, while the median age group of viewers dropped to 41. This is the same age group representing the majority of avid NFL fans. 

There is no need to pit leagues against one another, or to convince anyone to become a diehard soccer fan. Like any sport, it is an acquired taste. But these numbers are impossible to ignore. Soccer is already the number one sport in the world, and America is rapidly following suit. With the growth taking place today, it’s easy to assume how popular soccer will be in the US in the near future. Paying attention will get brands in front of the U.S. soccer wave.

Kathryn Inman

Kathryn Inman

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