Soccer has been gaining popularity in the United States, but will it ever be more popular than football? It’s a difficult question to answer as soccer is the world’s most popular sport with an estimated 3.5 billion fans worldwide; however, soccer still trails behind football in terms of U.S. viewership and player participation.
When it comes to soccer's rise in popularity in the U.S., there are a few key factors that have contributed to its success. For starters, soccer has become much more accessible to Americans over the last decade or so due to increased media coverage and the emergence of Major League Soccer (MLS). Additionally, soccer’s youth participation numbers have been on the rise for years, with a 2017 survey from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) reporting that soccer was the third-most popular team sport among children ages 6-17 (behind only basketball and tackle football).
However, soccer still has a long way to go before it can overtake football as America’s favorite sport. Despite soccer's impressive growth among American youth, viewership of soccer games on television is still far behind other major sports such as basketball and American football which average more than four million viewers per game compared to soccer’s 500 thousand viewers during MLS broadcasts. Furthermore, soccer is still struggling to capture the attention of casual sports fans who are drawn more towards traditional American sports such as baseball and football.
While soccer may never overtake football in terms of overall popularity in America, there is no denying that soccer is making steady gains every year when it comes to fan engagement and viewership. With continued investment from both media outlets and professional teams, soccer could very well become one of America’s top spectator sports by 2030 if trends continue their current trajectory. The future looks bright for soccer in America; whether its rise will be enough to overtake football remains to be seen.
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