“Soccer” as Americans would love to call it, has become one of the most attractive team sports in the United States. The game known all over the world as football started gaining more attention when the United States played host to the 1994 World Cup. A lot of Americans and football lovers at the time described it as one for the future; but the future finally arrived after the wonderful performance put together by the United States men’s team to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The Major League Soccer (MLS), which is America’s version of the English Premier League (EPL), has gained international attention in the last few years. It continues to attract huge turnout of fans week-in-week-out, which points to the popularity of the game in that country.
A social scientist, Rich Luker describes the popularity of soccer in the United States as a sport that is climbing to the heights of baseball and basketball. His poll revealed a number of soccer players including Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and David Beckham on a list of famous athletes in the United States; dwarfing NBA superstar Dwayne Wade.
Luker’s poll according to Fordham Observer, showed that the second favourite sport of this group was as a matter of fact pro-soccer, which edged out pro-basketball and baseball. The popularity of soccer in America according to Luker is attributed to a generational shift: “Kids growing up today gain cachet and social currency by knowing about the sport,” Luker told ESPN. “It is an inevitability that soccer will soon be as popular as MLB and NBA.”
However, the groundwork for the fame soccer is currently enjoying in the United States was not laid during the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the country when the likes of Alexis Lalas and Landon Donovan took the centre stage; they were actually laid years back when football legends Pele and Beckenbauer paved the way after moving to the New York Cosmos in the late 70s.
Today, the United States boasts of great names such as Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Jozy Altidore, goalkeeper Tim Howard, and Landon Donovan who recently retired from the national team. Those are popular names lighting up the EPL, and the list is almost endless when you count players in other countries in Europe and within the United States.
The Luker poll also revealed that soccer is the second favourite sport of people between the ages of 12-24. While the NBC reports that an estimated 3 million kids play soccer in the United States. As earlier said, the 2014 World Cup held in Brazil underscored just how popular the game has become in God’s own country; especially when pictures of President Barak Obama and some White House staff appeared on the social media watching a football match between the United States and Belgium aboard Air Force One.
Major television stations have bought into the hype, and have now been repositioned to include soccer among their top programs. Fox Sports, ESPN NBS, and ABC now take the MLS seriously, and compete to buy rights to beam live pictures to millions of viewers across the world.