“Football is the sport of the future.” We’ve been hearing this sentiment in the United States for nearly five decades now.
From the all-too-fleeting glory of the original North American Soccer League and the explosion of youth soccer in the 1970s to the present day, the sport has perpetually teetered on the brink of mainstream status in the minds of the American media. and sports. fans. But in reality, football has cemented itself as one of the biggest sports in the country for some time now.
When soccer’s status as a major sport in the US is brought to the fore, it is usually through the lens of the successes and failures of our national league(s), primarily Major League Soccer, and to a somewhat lesser extent the men’s national team. The United States. . That might make sense in a vacuum, but football doesn’t exist in one.
Unlike the “Big 4” sports – the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL – MLS is not the largest league in the world in its sport. The above four are indisputably home to the best teams, best players and best infrastructure in the world in their respective sports. MLS is arguably the best professional football league the US has ever seen, with high levels of play and attendance on par with, and in some cases exceeding, MLB, NBA, and NHL teams. But it is easily outclassed on the field by numerous European and South American leagues, as well as the Mexican Liga MX.
On the international side, while the American women are four-time World Cup champions and have been incredibly successful, the men on the other hand are a historically mediocre side. They (usually) qualify for the World Cup from a relatively weaker confederacy, but rarely make significant progress in the tournament.
The reality that is our domestic football product not the best in the world is the major contributing factor to the dismissal culture that permeates the media and the general population of sports fans. But if you look at the popularity of the sport In general, in the US, there is no doubt that football is here – and it is at the top of many sports fans’ minds.
Here are six reasons why football is the sport of today, not the future:
1. Football is already ahead of hockey
Even by the standard stats of attendance, viewership, and poll popularity, football is ahead of the NHL — and nearly as popular as baseball.
When it comes to the accessibility and participation of the sport, football blows ice hockey out of the (frozen) waters. Hockey requires hundreds of dollars in specialized equipment to play, and special facilities to play in (even for the roller hockey variety). Football, at a basic level, requires nothing but a ball.
If you dig deeper into the demographics, the average age of football fans is younger than that of hockey and other traditional American sports.
2. Youth movements are huge for the sport
According to Researchprofessional football is the 2nd most popular sport among the ages of 12-24, behind only the NFL.
As these fans grow up with the game – which has provided easy access to almost every game featuring the world’s best players and leagues on TV and streaming for over a decade now – football will only continue to grow in popularity.
Children ages 6-17 roughly make up the audience on NBC, compared to 4.6% of the World Series audience.
The FIFA video game series has undoubtedly also helped cement football in the public consciousness. The popular game has introduced millions of people to leagues, teams and players from around the world, often at a young age.
3. Football is characterized by a melting pot culture
The US has always been a mix of peoples and cultures from all over the world, so it’s not surprising that the world’s most popular sport is gaining a foothold here. But in the 21st century, it goes far beyond the local ethnic leagues and teams that supported the game in the US for much of the 20th century.
Among Hispanics in the US, football is by far the number 1 favorite sport. Leagues such as LaLiga and Liga MX have dominated Spanish-language TV ratings for years. And more recently, leagues such as Argentina’s Primera and Brasileirão have signed English-language streaming deals, making every match available in the US for the first time ever.
4. Football is still growing fast
Recent reports show that football, although it has been deeply entrenched in the lives of many Americans for years, is still on an upward trend.
As of 2019, 52% more adults considered themselves to be football fans compared to just 7 years prior in 2012. During the same period, Gridiron Football saw a 7% drop in fans (perhaps due in part to the fact that in In American football, the ball is really only in play for about 11 minutes during a game, watching football around 55 of the 90 scheduled minutes with the ball in play).
5. Football is a money maker
Football is a huge business all over the world, and the US is a big cog in that machine.
In addition to our domestic men’s and women’s professional leagues and international teams, the huge US media rights deals of recent years for major European leagues have brought these leagues hundreds of millions in revenue.
The American football fan looms large in the minds of many football executives around the world as the US is a major market for broadcasting, branding and off-season tours. Global football revenues exceeded $40 billion in 2019, twice what the NFL brought in.
6. Fútbol is really very important
More than half of the world’s population watched the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and the 2022 edition is sure to draw similar numbers.
Among Hispanics in the US, winning the World Cup is seen by their country as the second most important event in their lives, just behind the birth of a child. And on the club side, the annual UEFA Champions League Final is one of the most-watched events – far outpacing the US NFL Super Bowl. The 2021 UCL final was coming up 700 million viewers worldwide, while the Super Bowl drew 112 million that year.
While you may still not hear much about football on your local TV news report or sports radio talk show, there is no doubt that the sport is as important as any sport in the US. Just count the sweaters the next time you visit your local mall. Count the fans in the stadiums each summer for big-name friendlies and international tournaments. Count the millions of viewers watching the plethora of football available live in this country almost every day of the year.
The 1994 World Cup was the beginning of the revival of football in the United States. World Cup 2026 will surely be the definitive statement to the world that his game is loved as much, if not more, than anywhere else on these shores.
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