Is Soccer Popular In The United States, Or Not?

NEW YORK - JUNE 12: Soccer fan Anil Shahi (R) and others watch the U.S. vs. England World Cup match beneath the Manhattan Bridge June 12, 2010 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Soccer fans around the world are cheering for their home countries on the second day of World Cup action. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Let’s face it. We soccer fans live in a bubble. We eat, live and breathe soccer. So much so, that it’s sometimes hard to get a perspective on how popular, or unpopular, the sport is in the United States.

I really enjoy speaking with people who aren’t rabid soccer fans to hear their perspectives on the beautiful game. It often brings me down to earth and I get to better understand what the average American, who may not be a soccer fan, thinks.

For better or worse, soccer becomes an American mainstream topic every four years. No matter how much soccer grows, many of the same questions and same complaints about the sport are raised.

Luckily, in the past week, I’ve had a chance to experience what people in the street and in the press are saying about soccer, and the observations are quite revealing, so I thought I’d share a few with you.

First, The Guardian published a story today entitled Horns Stay Silent For the Underdog USA, which includes a couple of choice quotes from me and some surprisingly pessimistic viewpoints from Jason Davis, a red-blooded American soccer blogger for Match Fit USA. Ed Pilkington, The Guardian’s New York correspondent, penned the piece but it feels as if he’s disappointed by the response so far from American and its residents in terms of getting into the World Cup. I discussed this with Pilkington on the phone a few days ago when he interviewed me. He mentioned how he sees very few flags or cars honking horns in New York when a team scores a goal. My response was that it’s not part of American fan culture. Americans love their flags probably more than any country in the world, but they don’t take to running through the streets or honking the horns in delight. Americans are more likely to party inside — whether it’s their homes or the many bars that are showing games.

Second, I spoke this morning with the exterminator my wife and I hire to keep those pesky Florida bugs out of my home. My wife started talking about the World Cup to him to get a sense for whether he’s been watching any matches. He’s not a soccer fan, but he admitted he turned on the England against USA game for a few minutes to see what the fuss was about. But when my wife asked him whether he was going to watch the rest of the first round games featuring the US, his response was surprising but enlightening. He replied “I heard that the US has no chance of winning the World Cup, so I’m not bothered to watch it.”

Americans are extremely competitive and always want to excel in everything they do. So, rather than watch a sport where the US will not succeed, the exterminator (and presumably countless other Americans) want to watch something else, something they can win.

Third, I’ve heard the following two arguments aimed at soccer too many times to remember. The first is that soccer is boring. The second is that soccer is low-scoring. Both criticisms are related, but they are difficult to argue against. I’ve had the good fortune to be interviewed by two radio stations this week about the World Cup and the way I positioned the answer was to say that soccer is a sport that is extremely different than most American sports. The closest resemblance is ice hockey and, even then, it’s nothing like the NHL. Soccer is a team sport played by 11 players on each team. It’s not a sport like American Football where it’s much easier to score. And it’s not a sport where one goal equals six points.

Non-soccer fans in the United States can be pretty dismissive and harsh against soccer when given the opportunity. But a shining light for me has been my week at Wowies, the sports bar in Boca Raton which is where MLS Talk is hosting its official World Cup viewing parties. While sitting in the booth working on my coverage of the World Cup, I’ve found myself eavesdropping on the conversations at the bar where there is a mix of soccer fans with some that know a little about the sport and others who have no clue and aren’t interested in it. Among all of the topics discussed at the bar this week, the World Cup has been the most prevalent. Yes, it’s a World Cup sports bar (at least for the next three weeks), but it’s a typical (but nicer) American sports bar. It’s not a soccer pub. However, the conversations have been surprisingly positive about soccer and many of the patrons sitting at the bar seem genuinely interested in how well the USA does but in the tournament itself. After living in this country for more than 25 years and having to endure so much negativity aimed at soccer, it’s refreshing to hear positive things being said about the sport.

Perhaps that’s why I’m so positive in the story. The TV ratings back up my belief. Now the most important thing is for the United States men’s national team to come through with their end of the bargain and to progress out of Group C. Then, mainstream America (and perhaps my exterminator) will become more interested.

What do you think? Is Davis too pessimistic? Am I too optimistic? What are you hearing from people on the street? Is soccer getting bigger in this country where you can see evidence with your eyes? Share your opinions in the comments section below

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About Christopher Harris

Publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris founded the site in 2005. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who was born and raised in Wales, has lived in Florida since 1984, and supported Swansea City since 1979. Last but not least, he got engaged during half-time of a MLS game.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

57 Responses to Is Soccer Popular In The United States, Or Not?

  1. Jay says:

    Most Americans aren’t interested in soccer, and to invest money and time in it is well, a waste of time and money.

  2. BA14 says:

    It’s a hard sport to describe on what each persons role is. Basketball, baseball, and football Americans understand what each position does and how they should play it. They have X’s an O’s.

    I’ve only been following soccer for 4 years but it’s not easy trying to describe what each player is suppose to be doing. Then you hear that a player needs to get wider or is getting to wide, the defense needs to tighten up.

    What does this all mean to the average American? What they see is a bunch of guys running around and they don’t understand why.

    • short passes says:

      BA14 — you have nailed it !! US soccer is dominated by the coaching mentality so we play a style that is all XXXXXX’s and OOOOOO’s. A game that only a “C” license coach or above could appreciate. The other American sports are learned FIRST by playing for fun and pure enjoyment!! Most Americans don’t go through that process with soccer. Instead they are asked to watch games that are pure tedium, unless a son or daughter is playing. This includes club, high school, and especially college. (Ever see a college soccer stadium packed with fans — there for the pure joy of watching. — note the finals of the college tournament!!)
      US soccer needs to develop players who can actually entertain !! Once the fun is there the XXXXXXXXXX’s and OOOOOOOOO’s can always come later.

      • Brian says:

        As a non-soccer fan looking for an interesting discussion about soccer and its popularity, I am glad I found this comment. Short Passes is correct in his assertion. My understanding is that the U.S. Soccer Federation has been trying to build a program based on defending, absorbing much of the opponents attack, and looking for a rare chance to score. This is counter active to increasing the popularity of the sport. Why not develop a program with our perceived culture in mind. Give me a playmaker and suddenly I am much more interested. Veering toward the middle does little to earn my interest.

  3. short passes says:

    For a long time I have felt that the hype about the tremendous benefits to US Soccer that can/could result from having the MNT get out of the KO round is misplaced. Your “bug-man” seems to validate my position. He is only interested if the US is in a position to win the WC. I’m quite sure that he could care less if we get out of the KO round or not. It’s the semi’s he’s interested in!! Unfortunately, most US soccer fans (except for the fanatics–god bless’m) don’t believe we have a chance in h–l to get there. So the “bug-man” is really out of our reach currently.
    SO LET’S TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT. It’s my contention that we would be better off trying to develop a playing style that actually “entertains” rather than concentrating on playing the ugly conservative style that we have done for the past 20 years with the oft stated goal of making it out of the KO round. Skill and creativity MIGHT actually attract people. And with the skillful and creative players we might actually make it to the semi’s.
    I’m sure I will get blasted for this post but just be more creative than saying (1) “You don’t understand the strategy of WC KO round play.” I understand it but I just don’t want the US to continue to be in that group of countries who can’t play with the big boys and are too chicken to try. Also don’t use Spain’s loss as an excuse for playing more defensively. They had other problems, coaching for one. (2) “You don’t understand, the US doesn’t have the skill level to play with the big boys.” My answer is that we never will if we don’t start trying.
    Making it out of the KO round will not in and of itself win over the US sports fan, no matter how much Gulati believes it will.

  4. njndirish says:

    Slow and steady, slow and steady. My friends who hated soccer 4 years ago, can’t stop watching now. Let the haters hate.

  5. CoconutMonkey says:

    The game might not be on everyone’s radar as much as the other sports. But, whether other people want to believe it or not, there are millions of Americans playing and watching footy every week.

  6. dan says:

    It’ll be difficult for soccer to reach the same level of cultural consciousness as the 3 major team sports in the US: football, basketball and baseball. I think it isn’t just a lack of scoring as these sports are about forward progression where retreating backward can lead to a loss of possession and a lost scoring opportunity. So when the casual viewer sees lateral and back passes they might have a hard time relating, let alone being entertained. BA14 mentioned the lack of strictly defined roles for positions also contributing to confusion and I agree. Winning the hearts and minds of the sporting public is going to take time.

    However, I am optimistic, like The Gaffer, because we are a multi-cultural nation with a population in transition. When more citizens study/work abroad and immerse themselves in a footballing culture then come back and tell their stories, more interest will be fostered. It’ll sure help to have the USMNT progress beyond the group stage and they have a decent shot. Now, if only we can host in ’18 or ’22.

  7. James says:

    Here’s my take as a somewhat atypical American watching others. I’m not the sporting type. My rotund figure is a testament to that fact. With football especially, I do not get what the big deal is. However, I used to work with a gentleman from South Africa, and loved hearing his banter about how much he hated football and how superior soccer was to this most dismal of American past-times. One point he made that has stuck with me is how even with football, Americans aren’t nearly as passionate about the sport as most other countries are with soccer. I believe him to be right. Sure, football fans paint their bodies up when they go to games, but their devotion will change based on their ‘favorite’ team’s chances of winning big. A few years ago, practically the whole country had ‘Cowboys Fever’ just because they had won the Super Bowl so many times in a row. We’re just not as passionate about our favorite sports as other countries are. I’ve never once heard of a basketball riot!

    I think if soccer or even hockey were more popular in this country, I might change my views on sports, though. Whenever I’m walking past a TV that’s showing either of those two sports, I may not stop to watch, but I at least pause to take note of what’s happening. To me, those two sports make a lot more sense than baseball or football.

    That being said, I found this article because I was doing a Google search on the sudden apparent popularity of soccer here in the states. I don’t get out that much or watch TV, but just on the websites that I frequent, I see a lot more references to what’s going on with the World Cup than I have ever seen before. At first, I thought it was just the USA vs. England match, but even after that has ended, I’m still seeing a lot of information circulating around about what’s going including advertisements, news blurbs, and little score tickers posted all over the place. Just from these little references that I’m spotting, I’ve learned what a vuvuzela is and it’s importance in South African culture, how the coming match between USA and Slovenia this morning is important to the US’s standing, and that the British media is blaming this recent Spanish loss on an attractive reporter stationed right behind one of the goals! Basketball is a big deal here, and yet the only reason I know that the Lakers are in whatever it is the NBA’s championship thing is called is because of a coworker asking me to Google the score for him. From where I’m sitting, I’d say that soccer hasn’t gotten nearly the popularity that football has, but it’s definitely garnered a lot more attention from Americans this year than I’ve seen before. Who knows, maybe the tide is changing and we’ll finally have a well-publicized sport that I can be excited about?

    • Rog says:

      for most soccer fans in the UK, their team is something they are born with, generally their local professional side. You support them through thick and thin, as they go up and down the leagues. The failures make the successes much more enjoyable! As an England fan watching the Slovakia game on wednesday wasn’t a pleasure – it very rarely is. I just wanted to win and a 1 – 0 at any time we could have seen our world cup end. Now I’m going to have to put myself through the Germany game – and probably end up going out on penalties.
      Nick Hornby’s book “Football Fever” is a good insight into life as a fanatical Arsenal fan and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to understand how being a fan plays out in England.

  8. James says:

    Soccer, futbol, football, calcio, or whatever people call it is popular in the US.

    The issue is that people want to use support for the USMNT & MLS as key barometers for the sport’s popularity in the US and that’s a poor measure.

    That measure works in other countries throughout the world because they are not the melting pot that the US is.

    Just look at the tremendous support teams like Mexico has with people in the States. Many WCQ played in the US haven’t been true home matches in the past because the visiting team has so many supporters living here in the US.

    Where I live, there are tons of youth & adult soccer leagues. There are multiple bars where people watch not only the World Cup, but European club soccer week in and week out.

    MLS doesn’t get embraced by the masses simply because it is not the elite league in the world ala the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL.

    If MLS had the top 20 club teams in the world, then the league would be massive. But, that will never happen.

    But, that doesn’t mean that soccer isn’t popular here in the US.

  9. John from Oz says:

    Hi all …came across this by chance and it’s interesting because we have some similarities in Australia. Our main sport in summer is cricket and the winter one is AFL football which is only played here much like your NFL is in the US. Soccer is really only a developing sport here though it seems to have been gaining some momentum in our domestic league. I am an AFL fan and have not really had much interest in soccer until recently but I was surprised with many many other people rocked up to watch australia play ….was 4am when the game was on and 20,000 people turned up in darling harbour sydney to watch it. For a non soccer nation there was a sense of spirit in the air (even though we were ultimately decimated by Germans lol). Anyway I have loved watching some of these world cup game and have lost sleep to prove it …hope the US does well they just equalised against the slovenes!

  10. booker t says:

    SOCCER,is for girls,this is a sissy sport.

  11. Brian says:

    I already posted one reply to an earlier comment, but wanted to put my two cents in. To begin with I am a big sports fan, but have yet to embrace soccer. Still, I am always curious about how the most popular sport in the world is perceived here by people who like, dislike, or do not care about the sport.

    With regards to the fanaticism around soccer being greater than the fanaticism around other American sports, I have to agree that soccer is bigger where it is big. This has much to do with the sports culture around the rest of the world. As one Brit told me in a bar when I was watching the Super Bowl, everywhere else is about other sports in relation to soccer. Thus, soccer is the perceived only sport.

    Here we have choices and certain cities have strong ties to different sports. I live in Chicago and it is a football town. I do not think the fascination is quite at the level as it is for soccer fans, but that is because we have two (three as hockey has begun to comeback here) other teams for people to follow in the offseason. It is that choice and that abundance of sport that lessens a finite possible amount of fanaticism.

    I think the author of the article is right to be optimistic about the future of soccer here though. You have an increasing percentage of the population coming from backgrounds worshiping the sport. You also have population increasingly likely to have played the sport as a child. Some of these people remain fans.

    I say some not all because I was one of those youth forced to play soccer instead of football and I did not come away as a big fan of the game. Soccer is often a sort of weekend daycare parents gladly play because it is relatively cheap compared to sports like baseball and it tires the kids for the rest of the day (or at least a few post game hours). Some of the participants and their parents do become rabid fans and become part of the bubble the Gaffer mentions.

    These two developmental factors and the reality every four years a tide of people give soccer a chance here and every four years more of these people are willing to give the sport an extended view (essentially every four years the base grows a little bit, like a corral reef).

    To make a big jump in popularity Short Passes is correct in stating the soccer federation needs to try and develop a program that encourages players to try and make big exciting plays. Soccer will certainly join the ranks of football, basketball, and baseball if the strategy becomes much more flamboyant, like, as my understanding, the game in Brazil. Heck, we may even actually attract some top young American athletes if this approach is taken.

    Also, soccer fans need to stop trying to compare the sport to football. They are two different sports emphasizing different forms of athleticism(far more foot skills and stamina in soccer and a little more quickness, pure strength, and, obviously, hand skills in football). If you tell me all football players are fat and would not last five minutes in a soccer match, then you do not understand the game of football (not all players are linemen) and their training (all professional athletes run now to remain in shape, so even those linemen would last at least 15 minutes). Also you are doing what all sports fans do, forget the stuff that bores our girlfriends.

    In soccer their is a lot of important play in the middle of the field and a lot of trotting. These are parts of the game fans accept because the moments people remember are the incredible cross and header. We remember highlights, not the low lights in all sports we love.

    Soccer fans cannot claim superiority like in the rest of the world either.We have our own sporting traditions and as soccer tries to become mainstream here it must co-exist if it hopes to truly grow and flourish.

    Now, as a fan I can appreciate soccer as a sport. The game is not as complicated as it has been made out to be and watching it is far more exciting than watching a baseball game.

    I appreciate the long passes and like the rhythm of play. I can understand the game since, like most American sports fans, I understand similar strategy in basketball (well good basketball, not isolation play) and can comprehend the role of every player in a 4-3 defense (a lot of reading what is going on quickly and reacting in order to not leave a gaping hole in the defense). Basically, give an American sports fan a huge television to see a decent portion of the action on the field and an hour watching a good game and the sport is easily digestible.

    Any thoughts? Questions? Audacious insults?

  12. ianm says:

    I’m from the UK AND what I don’t understand is that for a nation supposedly so competitive in the sporting arena you are prepared to sit back and play at level C in the World’s game. You’re a nation partaking in global football (soccer) competitions just to make up the numbers.


    • Brian says:

      Perhaps the people who constructed the team are worried that by shooting for the moon this team, and more importantly the popularity of soccer, will burn bright but burn out quickly and once again recede as a sport in the home front. Do not forget, this is not the first time soccer has been the next big thing in the U.S.

    • Andy says:

      Well, I guess Americans aren’t that competitive about sports then. Oh well.

      • Brian says:

        Could not be more wrong. We are competitive about the sports we care about, it is just we do not define sports as soccer. This seems to be the biggest disconnect between global soccer fans and sports fans in the United States. We have sports we care about more as a nation and our best athletes gravitate toward those sports.

        Andy, I can turn your comment around on you. Other nations must not be competitive because they do not try and beat the U.S. in football and basketball.

        Now that sounds asinine for a reason. It assumes other nations have to care about the sports popular in the United States. Suddenly I sound like an arrogant a**hole.

  13. bradjmoore48 says:

    Here’s a rant, but a question I’d like to hear from commenters on. Look at how today’s US match is being reported by sports media: essentially, “U.S. scores lucky 2-2 draw with Slovenia.” Where is the sports media’s anger for that bullshit offside call?! Where is the “We were robbed” on ESPN and other outlets. I feel in other countries where soccer is prevalent, this shit would be called out to no end, but here we’re “lucky” to have taken just the tie. I’m ranting and may be completely off about this, but I want to get people’s thoughts. I feel like if the US sports media jumped over this and said it was a bullshit call, there would be a lot more people interested, and the Algeria game would be a huge draw. I definitely see this in other sports in the US, and I see it in some media overseas relating to whatever inequities come up, but here, the US sports media settles on “US scores lucky draw.”

  14. Max says:

    Love world-class soccer, hate MLS.

    I was born, and spend my childhood, in a country where soccer was king. (With Hockey a close second.)

    I lost some of that love over the years, replaced by the sights of Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, and whoever happens to be on the field (in between the amazing commercials) in the Super Bowl.

    Though I enjoy skilled Soccer (I record & watch every World Cup game, much to the chagrin of my poor, suffering wife, and am strongly considering doing the same for Premier League on FSC & ESPN.), the MLS leaves me feeling like I’m watching AA baseball or the NBDL. It’s boring, unskilled, and very difficult to get through.

    I just don’t feel entertained, and I actually started out with a love for the sport. I can’t imagine how Americans who’s first exposure to the Sport is MLS, will ever develop anything but indifference to it. I think the real key to getting Americans into the sport (aside from the magnificence that is World Cup) is giving them more exposure to the top leagues around the world. Maybe they will grow to love it enough that some billionaire will finally take a chance and build a serious club around here, with world class talent lured by world class paychecks. Imagine a Yankees equivalent. All you need is one club in the beginning, it can dominate the league all it wants, exposure is key.

    But we will not get there with the MLS as it currently stands.

  15. Pakapala says:

    Great article. Here’s one other point about soccer popularity in the US.
    Americans in general don’t have that national team passion that you see in other countries display for their national teams. Whether it is basketball or baseball or soccer, americans are rarely interested in their national teams playing against others.

    • Brian says:

      True I find little interest in national teams, but that is because the sports I follow closely are not nearly as popular outside the United States. Even if a national team is beaten in a sport we play I am confident we can win if we are able to convince our best players to take time out of their vacation to represent the country. Of course, I have a sincere counter question, apart from soccer, what other sport inspires such rabid nationalism?

      • Grumpy Englishman says:

        Cricket and to a lesser extent, Rugby.

        It’s only a matter of time before the USA wins the World Cup. Americans, on the whole, have an unwavering belief in their nation and their abilities as individuals. It will happen before England regains the trophy.

        I also think the MLS needs to employ a ‘promotion and relegation’ system.

  16. alejandro says:

    I think the reason United States sports fans don’t really gravitate to a national team in the same manner as other areas of the world, is because the sports that the majority of N. Americans prefer and follow on an annual basis, Basketball or Football or Baseball are all contained within the USA or Canada. The rivalries are between cities, not countries.

    As far as soccer is concerned, I only see it as a sport that hits the radar every 4 years, and then quickly fades out of sight and mind for a vast majority of sports fans in the USA.

    I’m sure some people out there may genuinely become fanatics. That’s how I became a Tennis fan. I saw an epic Wimbledon semi final between Martina Navratilova & Chris Evert in 1987 as a kid, and have been hooked to the sport ever since. Then again, Tennis makes a lot more sense to me than Soccer, and it’s impossible to tie.

    That being said, I hope the USA team does well, but I’ll be watching Tennis on Saturday.

  17. Patrick says:

    Just saw Brazil and Portugal play to a 0-0 finish…this is one reason why soccer cannot catch on greatly in the U.S. It is hard for a typical American sports fan to believe he/she just watched over 90 minutes of a sport and there was no scoring at all.

    • Pakapala says:

      Not true. Americans get excited time and time again about 3 to 4 hours long 1-0 baseball games? Scoring has nothing to do with the game popularity in the country.

  18. Jb says:

    This is just my honest opinion. Soccer is alright to play recreationally but is painfully boring to watch. Also, much like the olympics, I could care less about watching… All I could care about is the us winning. I also kinda get pissed when people talk about soccer because it’s so damn boring to watch, it makes golf feel exhilerating in comparison. This is also a sidecomment but the us is very american centric… I don’t really care about international sports .

  19. Sean England says:

    Soccer, or Football in the rest of the world is played by most (or a lot) of young boys from walking age. A ball can be kicked as soon as you can walk. A game can be played with a wall, with 2 players or with a hundred.

    Granted you can go in a batting cage, or toss a football between a small crowd ( or catch as we call it) but you cant as easily just muck around between two or 10 or keep a ball up on your own practicing your skills. In every other country in the world a poor child can have a football and a game is only a moment away.

    In most countries apart from the US it is a working class sport, rugby and cricket are for the middle classes. Rugby like US football is simple to understand in terms of offensive and defensive play. Soccer is like Poetry, in Rugby and US Football it seems certain situations lead to certain outcomes. In soccer nothing is certain. In the rest of the world each village has a team, each town has many teams and each City has many more.

    Hardened soccer fans in the UK have tales of woe, joy and great humour out of how bad their team is, how they can break your heart. The successful ones are derided for buying success.

    Football players can be great athletes, gifted and skillful….just check out you tube for examples, if you can put up with the derogatory remarks posted by the U.S viewers. The US seems to only join in if they can win or they start world series that only include US teams. You are large and there is no reason for you to look elsewhere for other sports, you quite enjoy the ones you have. But i am surprised you haven’t taken to kicking a ball around for fun. We get the impression that Soccer mums were all mums in the US not just suburban middle class families.

    It’s cultural. p.s we should (England, not Brits or the UK, which includes Wales, Scotland (where apparently you all have ancestors) and Northern Ireland) be better at the game but we are not. If anythin the US is as good as us now and likely to get better, then you can start watching because you are better than the limeys.

  20. Nick says:

    I’m a 21 year-old die-hard US soccer fan and have been so for the past two World Cup cycles. I have to say that this Cup there’s been a HUGE increase in interest from my many non-soccer fan friends. The same guys who a couple months before were hasseling me about watching a Manchester United game could not get enough of the US team. The coverage from ABC and ESPN has been fantastic. Following the Landon goal and Algeria game I had to pinch myself going from site to site of the major media outlets which all had main stories regarding the team. Local bars caught on as well and many will likely continue to do a good business through the Cup Final. Of course, the vast majority of this buzz will die down and much of it has. That’s alright though because soccer showed that it can captivate the average sports fan and the entire country, even if it was just for a moment. Soccer took another big step forward in this country because of how our team played and it’s something that we can definitely build on.

  21. Roger says:

    I keep on saying that the key for soccer in North America is that the structure of our national soccer championship has never really resembled what soccer is all around the world.
    The structure of our league matters. Soccer countries have an open system and promotion and relegation. What that does is that there would be a club not only on every city,but on every neighborhood. The conection with your local club is a very close one. The closest MLS “franchise” to Miami is Washington.

    Miami is a good example of the lack of a “link” of the local fans to te US soccer system. Miami FC averages a bit over 1000 fans X game. It is actually on Ft Lauderdale, not Miami. But when the local Copa Latina plays every year and the Miami Haitian team plays Honduras 5 Estrellas, there would be no less than 4000 fans going to that game.

    If we had a open system,if we had no being imposed the circus that MLS is; soccer would be a lot more popular in the US, because the fans could make their own teams,even if they had to start on a lower div and work their way up. It would be clubs they really feel identified with. A haitian or Honduran on Miami is not going to drive to Ft Lauderdale to watch a “Miami” team that plays on a league that is not even link to the soccer world, since there is no pro/rel; but he would support its local Haitian ,Honduran team.

    If England had in place the system we have been imposed on US soccer,believe me soccer would not be popular there either.

    When we implement a meaningfull national league.When we get soccer people to the top of the USSF. Soccer would finally had arrived to North America.

    • Milly says:

      I am a MLS follower and USMNT fan from Austria, Europe, and i fully agree with Roger.
      I don’t know if there is a “key” to success and popularity for soccer in the USA, but implementing a REAL LEAGUE in North American soccer would definitely be a huge step. I sympathize with L.A. Galaxy a lot. And let me give you two scenarios that illustrate what I don’t like about the MLS.

      The first scenario is pure fiction. If there was a relegation/promotion system, the Galaxy would have been relegated in 2008, and last year they would have played in USL-1 or however you would call it then. What a tough test for the whole team that would have been, a sad thing for all the supporters for sure, but at the same time a huge challenge. It is exactly experiences like this that form a strong club spirit both within the team and between supporters and players. Years like that give you the opportunity to write history. And it is a test for the supporters as well. Will they walk with their club through a season of games against the likes of Rochester Rhinos?

      The second scenario is closer to sad reality. It is what lies ahead of us this season: The Galaxy rule the league, they have won 10 of their 14 games so far, and if everything goes as expected, they should grab the MLS title with 60+ points and a record margin ahead of Columbus or New York… Oh no, they won’t. Because New England Revs who will have sneaked into the 4th playoff berth of the Eastern Conference on matchday 30 with a tally of 29 points will beat them on penalties in the MLS Cup game after a stalemate 0-0 draw.

      For me as an outside observer it is the same story every year: I follow the MLS regular season, I see some great games and some poor games, I read about it, I argue about it with my friends, and I try to schedule my yearly trips to the U.S. according to where and when L.A. Galaxy play. And then, it all falls apart. The playoffs ruin everything. They take everything out of the season, all the tension, all the joy, all the discussions I have had, it all feels useless, facing a stupid four-game-playoff period that decide over who wins the whole thing. How absolutely absurd is that?

      In 2008, it was New York (who had managed to win 10 of their 30 league games, wow!) who wrong-footed Houston in the “Conference Semi-Final” and with a bit more luck would nearly have ended up as MLS Cup winners. And now, Real Salt Lake, a team that has LOST 12 (twelve!) of their 30 league games in 2009, has to be called MLS champion by soccer fans throughout the world? I’d rather not.

      The way it is right now, it can only draw short-term attention in mainstream media (new stadium openings, Beckham or Henry transfers, a World Cup every 4 years) but a real popularity can only be built from the bottom – by identifying with YOUR club (whether it’s local or not) and by accompanying it through all ups and downs. A real league with a real and full league table and with a relegation/promotion system seems to be an absolutely crucial step for North American soccer in the near future.

      • Brian says:

        I am glad I keep getting these comment updates via email. I have grown up with the franchise system and like in certain leagues (NFL), but hate it in others (NBA). For a league like the MLS, a league with single elimination playoffs, both Milly and Roger are right. The mere presence of luck and the nature of scoring in soccer (low) must ruin the league for soccer fans trying to maintain their excitement levels for the team and the league.

        Since the league must worry about finances, they are not going to risk losing a major market team to the relegation system. I do not follow the league and can tell you that.

        If soccer was king here then maybe they could pull off a relegation system, but in building the league the soccer federation is trying to ensure any popularity gained for the sport does not dissipate as the next sport’s season comes along and captures sports fans attention. This means exposure, or television, and putting something on television means money is a factor that cannot be ignored.

        I’ve suggested this before for the NBA, but I think it could work in the MLS as well. Have the first half or first two thirds of the season remain as they are. The entire league remains in the same pool and plays a schedule based on conferences. For the last half or third of the season split the league into two, Division 1 and 2 based on the records in the first portion of the season. Then start a new season and each division will have a playoff of their own at the end of that second season.

        This creates a relegation/demotion system within a franchise system, saving the television contracts and keeping the league competitive all the way through the season.

  22. DCUDiplomat96 says:

    Soccer is popular with immigrants living in the US. And espeecially with the mexicans, but still doesn’t have the mainstream household name types like the big four. I say MLS as a League is about just around Number 10, 1. NFL 2. NCAA Football, 3. NBA 4. MLB. 5. Nascar 6. NCAA hoops 7. NHL 8. Golf 9. UFC 10 MLS .

    • Roger says:

      I think you only forgot a few more ,Lacroise , the nat. spelling championship and fishing.

      you are a real soccer fan DC. I believe you yeahh yeahh yeahh

      • DCUDiplomat96 says:

        Actually Im am a Follower of DC united soccer, I am also being realistic, im not a fan of the copy cat holigan wannabee Fan clubs out there they having, thats including the Bravas, but i would like to see more of a grassroots and american friendly approach from soccer to the country. right know and for a long time, MLS has really been the Foreigners league in America. Im not saying nothing wrong with that, but its not really accomplishing much, but more renforcing the stereotype of soccer being a foreign sport, towards the North American sports fan. Yes you gonna have the world Cup, american people are gonna follow it as long as the US is competing. and if not, most american- who arent into soccer isnt gonna to follow it, unless they have nothing better to do. .. Also there is a lot of Immigrants here from soccer happy countries, so they are gonna follow there national teams and whatever club they follow. I hate women people often underestimate the American sports sometime I feel that those types are Jealous. But soccer shoulld do more to market adults better and showcaee the top american players better, dempsey has been playing in Fulham for how long now?? outside of the die hard soccer fans i doubt you here much of him in your everyday sports talk.

  23. Roger says:

    We will only know how popular it is when we have the right structure!
    When we practice the philosophy of universality that soccer leagues and international competitions practice all around the world.
    We saw it on the World Cup, every body has a chance.Rich and poor nations;big and small;all cultures.That is what have made our game the most popular on the planet.

    Promotion and relegation makes more sense in the US than any where else in the world !!
    Think about it.We have a few major sports,with a huge propaganda machinery behind them, but only on a selected group of cities(franchise system). Therefore leaving literally hundreds,thousand of cities big and small “up for grabs”.
    Promotion and relegation is the perfect system to take advantage of that and hit them where they are weak(Art of War).

    Promotion and relegation will make soccer the most popular sport in the US in no time.

    • Charles says:

      The reasons you give for US being perfect for pro/rel are the exact reasons it WON’T happen. Why would the big ( huge actually ) city owners ( with millions and millions on the line ) where money making is a guarenteed when it gets rolling ( see other sports and the Sounders ) take a chance that Souix City Iowa gets on a roll and makes it to the big time. Look at how much money it cost the EPL last year….a lot.
      What if Liverpool goes down !? A lot more.
      That would be the stupidest thing for someone with money to do.

      Plus the US fans will not go for a sport where the same team wins all the time. Just not going to happen. People are mad about baseball because the Yankees ( who have won once in ten years ) have too good a team always.

      I will quit watching if they go pro/rel. I am not going to watch the joke of LaLiga type leagues. Might as well watch WWF.

      • tlas says:

        “Plus the US fans will not go for a sport where the same team wins all the time. Just not going to happen. People are mad about baseball because the Yankees ( who have won once in ten years ) have too good a team always.”

        And what system does Major League Baseball (of which the Yankees are part of) use for competition, again? Might as well say that people should stop watching NFL because the Green Bay Packers win all the time.

  24. simon says:

    I think the current MLS franchise and playoff system is Ok. Playoffs ensure that the league is exciting and relevant until the last game. It wont be good for a league trying to attract audiences if a team wins the championship with 5 games left. Prom/rel wont be good cos there will be a few elite teams and weak or average teams like in the EPL and I dont think american fans will be excited by the same teams winning the league.

  25. Roger says:

    I think that the only way to know what the position of american fans is on promotion and relegation is to have a pool.

    Why gess what their position is on this important subject?

    Why not asking the american fans straigh up?

    Come on! It would be great if this site takes the initiative!

    lets have a pool about promotion and relegation!

    • Charles says:

      Roger, like your enthusiasm, but you are going to have a poll in a soccer blog site on pro/rel ?

      Why bother ? It will be like predicting who is going to win the EPL…. we already know the answer.

      The better question is where soccer has become mainstream ( Seattle ) ask those fans. Or in other cities, the people that need to start watching. What is their opinion ?

  26. Roger says:

    Why bother???

    because we have been IMPOSED a system wich alienate us from global football, with ANY consideration of the fans.

    because,in order to justify such system,we are continiously fed a set of baseless assumptions like “..i will bankrupt every franchise…” or “…americans wont like it…” “…if a big city club is relegated, TV chains would cancel contracts…”….and a few more.

    because the fans opinion on promotion and relegation MATTERS!
    and finally:
    because we wont really know the answer for sure until we ASK!

    • Charles says:

      I am unclear, am I a feeder or a reciever ? You say “WE” have been fed false statements. I am feeding those statements….and I am not a lemming.

      We haven’t had any system forced on us. You can follow free market soccer in many different leagues. They are unable to compete with MLS because noone invests in them, but you can start your own too.

  27. Joeykeeper says:

    I think soccer in the United States is actually one of, if not the best female sports in the United States. As for mens sports, Americans don’t understand the history and nuances of the game enough to appreciate the “game inside the game” if you will. Not understanding Soccer on this level makes it boring and too low scoring for most Americans to comprehend. With our roots tied to Baseball, and American Football, both being action sports with higher scoring potential, it would take Soccer many many years to catch up. I don’t believe most investors or sports fans are willing to wait that long. The only reason for the occasional bursts of interest in Soccer in the United States is purely due to the youth movement. Any youngster can play Soccer as long as you have two feet, can run and kick a ball. Lets face it at the youth level its the easiest game to play. Problem is, it dosen’t stick. Eventually the non athletic kids who only play Soccer lose interest in sports, and the kids that are real athletes choose other more complex sports like Football, Lacrosse, and Baseball. The kids who do stay with Soccer and move on to the travel teams and beyond face such wide competition from elite status teams where politics usually determine which kids get the chance to play at that level, creates an environment where eventually most kids end up losing interest in Soccer and dropping out or choosing another sport. Youth Soccer needs to stop eating its young and than maybe the game could gain some ground and compete on a higher professional level with the likes of Football and Baseball.

  28. josh brent says:

    1) there is no timeouts in soccer to put in commercials during games

    • Sancho says:

      In Brazil, because of the high temperatures, the referee is allowed to stop the game in the 23rd and 68th minutes for rehydration.

      • Sancho says:

        Of course, the rule is almost exclusive to Summer time.

        • Charles says:

          That is rediculous, NONE of the major leagues do that, the rest of the world does NOT do it that way and it should not be done that way in Brazil.

          How do you expect a league to become big time with embarrassments like this ? Mickey Mouse league.

          • Sancho says:

            Are you serious?! Believe me, some days, that’s a NECESSITY. It’s not about TV, they don’t do any commercial break when it happens. But the game can be played in such a slow pace because of the heat, that the pause IMPROVES the entretainment.

            So, if temperatures go like 95ºF or 105ºF, the referee, once the ball is out of play, is allowed to permit players to drink water for 2 minutes.

          • Sancho says:

            Brazilian soccer has a lot of problems. That is not one of them.

      • Charles says:

        I am joking, making fun of the Trolls.

        The first time I watched a college time-out, I was caught off guard, but I was fine with it. Unlike the trolls, I wasn’t really concerned on how the rest of the world did it or whether they approved.

  29. tlas says:

    The best way I can explain this is the following: the soccer and non-soccer worlds are like two ships passing each other in the fog on the ocean in the darkest part of the night. One ship (the casual non-soccer fan) is curious about this other ship (soccer). He/she may have heard (assuming he gets his/her sports news from the traditional media outlets) about soccer in a negative light but then the curiosity is heightened around World Cup time. No idea whether the other ship is hostile or friendly but instinct tells him/her to be very suspicious of it for one can never know if that other ship has cannons ready to fire at the first one.

    We’ve all heard the criticisms from non-soccer fans at one point or another. At this point, I’m tired of the haterade and just some to watch the damn matches. It’s great and all that more people are coming into the game (as opposed to immigrating while already a fan) but all that means is that I will continue to watch soccer-related programming in the near future, somewhere. Wider goals? Pro/rel? More DP’s? All small potatoes compared with being able to watch the game without having to justify liking the sport to some troll! Dammit!

  30. Russell says:

    i say it is getting much more popular but very slowly, i just been getting into soccer over the past year and cant stop practicing, i have even started to get my school an soccer team (wish me luck i present it to school board april 18) but anyways, it is getting more popular after the last world cup, before i havent heard people say anything about soccer where i live, and now i see people with Soccer jersies and people at the soccerfeild, so yes i say it is growing bigger but slowly.

  31. Chad says:

    As an American and sports fan of only very minor interest, I still get excited when I attend major league baseball games and enjoy them very much. As mentioned numerous times in various comments, baseball is not typically a high-scoring game and most hits resulting in fly-balls do get caught and result in an out. How many times during an average nine-inning game are there players on two or more bases? Not very often, really. The game can also be fairly slow. Still, I enjoy it when i’m at the stadium.

    When comparing basketball, the most common complaint that I hear from non-fans of the sport are that there’s actually TOO MUCH scoring. When there are games finishing at over 100 points for each team and each score is typically two points, the one constant is that you KNOW each team is going to score more often than not. I find that point to be no fun at all when it comes to watching the sport. I’m just not interested.

    I mention baseball and basketball because these are two examples of American sports were scoring seems to be opposite ends of the spectrum – too much or too little. For this reason, I don’t think that the excuse of soccer being a low-scoring game should be valid. While I know very little about MLS soccer or the sport in general, I am very interested and I am lucky enough to live in a city which has a team which does very well in terms of support – often out-selling the major league baseball team.

    I think that what really needs to happen for MLS or world-class soccer to take off in this country is simple marketing – I don’t see MLS or national team players in deodorant commercials nor do I see them on late night talk shows. We’ve got some big names from European soccer teams playing here in MLS yet they seem to receive little coverage. ESPN needs to start including MLS game highlights into their sports coverage along with baseball, football, hockey and NASCAR – this will start putting the sport into the collective conscious of the average American sports fan. I disagree that the sport needs to foster flamboyant or flashy skills among the players – that makes Americans appear to be simplistic, ADD-inflicted, shiny-object-adoring circus monkeys. I do really think that more mainstream coverage is what is needed for MLS and soccer to take off in this country.

  32. jack the donkey says:

    shut up

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