Over 25 million Americans tuned in to watch the U.S. Women’s National Team play Japan in the Women's World Cup in Canada. The game's viewership surpassed the average viewing of game six of the NBA finals. Is this a big deal? Considering that the soccer match received higher ratings than any non-football sporting event, it would be foolish to think that this was just another athletic event.
As the most watched soccer match in United States history, the impact has been profound and demonstrates that the parameters of soccer are expanding. Its popularity will not be impeded by intangible barriers. This surge in popularity and appreciation of soccer may be attributed to three major factors.
1. A painless and uncomplicated viewing experience.
Unlike the traditional American sports (football, basketball, and baseball), a soccer match has long periods of play that are not interrupted by timeouts, commercial breaks, or other sources of play stoppage. With 45 minute halves and a 15 minute halftime, the average soccer game is 2 hours and 10 minutes in duration, as compared to other sports events, which are much longer. This allows the casual fan to enjoy a televised game without monopolizing an entire afternoon or evening.
The separation of talent between the women's game and the men’s game is narrow compared to other sports. This is due in large part to the size of the pitch (field), the pace of ball movement, and the game being dependent upon talent, skill, stamina and endurance, rather than the size and strength of the athlete.
A soccer player is much more relatable to the average person than other professional athletes. They are generally of average height and weight, and athletically built yet not overly muscular in appearance; whereas, football and basketball players are unusually tall and extraordinarily muscular. In other words, soccer players look like "us."
2. Soccer attracts a diverse audience.
As a melting pot of races and ethnicities, one might think that the make-up of our professional sports teams would reflect this diversity. However, this is not the case. The two most popular pro sports in the U.S. are comprised primarily of African Americans and white players. The NFL is 68 percent African American and 28 percent white. The NBA is comprised of 72 percent African Americans and 20 percent white players. These numbers in no way reflect the population percentages of Americans.
America’s Major League Soccer ( MLS) is the only professional sports league that accurately reflects our country’s ethnic and racial diversity: 48 percent white, 25 percent Latino, 10 percent African American, and 17 percent identified as “other.” This diversity in the MLS is also reflected in our country’s national teams and, as such, attract and appeal to a large audience and following.
3. Prodigious sales of the interactive sports game FIFA.
The most sold sports game both annually and of all time is the EU Sports game FIFA, also known as FIFA Soccer. With over 100 million games/units sold, EA Sports’ FIFA has brought the game of soccer to the youth of the United States. As a result of the capability of the game player to use teams, or their individual players from nearly any soccer club in the world, Americans now are able to identify with and understand foreign teams, players, and the rules of the global game of soccer.
Just as driving American made cars, and wearing fashionable American made clothing lines have given way to a more global style conceptually, the youth of our country is becoming more and more globalized. Soccer is contributing to this globalization evolution. FIFA expanse encompasses 200 countries, all of which compete to play in the FIFA World Cup, which is now more popular than the Olympics and generated revenue of $4.8 billion at the last World Cup in Brazil.
Will soccer ever become the most popular sport in America? Perhaps not, however there is a monumental change taking place in the sports world in our country and soccers stock is soaring.