Prediction: Soccer Will Become a Mainstream Sport in U.S. This Summer

 Prediction: Soccer Will Become a Mainstream Sport in U.S. This Summer

I’m ready to make a bold prediction. It’s a simple one, but it has gigantic implications. It’s this: Soccer will finally break into the mainstream and will  evolve from a niche sport to a mainstream sport in America this summer thanks to World Cup 2010.

How popular it will become is based on several variables. Most importantly, how well the United States men’s national team does during the tournament in South Africa will make a big difference in the TV ratings. If the US fizzles in the early rounds, that will deal a mighty blow to mainstream America who will want to cheer for and bond with the US of A. We are, after all, a very patriotic country. But even if the US doesn’t advance to the latter stages of the World Cup, there are still plenty of diverse ethnic groups in the States that will help increase ratings.

The other important items that will help the World Cup reach critical mass in the States this summer are:

  • the excitement level the tournament generates: Mainstream America hates boring 4-5-1 nil-nil games,
  • the lack of controversial incidents that tarnish the game: Mainstream America hates injustice (a la the Henry handball incident),
  • the stories.

The stories are perhaps one of the most magical aspects of the World Cup. And this summer’s tournament in Africa, the first one ever for the World Cup, will have a ton of stories that will captivate many viewers in the United States. Those water cooler conversations are a critical part of helping the tournament to spread by word of mouth.

But what’s different about this World Cup compared to previous ones? In other years, we’ve had similar ingredients such as soccer-mad ethnic groups, exciting tournaments and a plentitude of stories, as well as a US team that has done well (2002 being the best example).

The answer is ESPN.

Never before in the history of soccer in the United States has one network put so much money and so much air time on bringing the sport of soccer to mainstream America. The sheer magnitude of their coverage (250 hours of it this summer) won’t be completely felt until the tournament begins in 17 days. But once it does, mainstream America will find it difficult to stay away from the World Cup. And, as we’ve discussed on this site before, give sports fans a taste of the World Cup and it’s hard not to get hooked.

ESPN’s Executive Vice President John Skipper has definitely put his neck on the line by investing so much time, resources and money on banking that the 2010 World Cup will be a success for the network in terms of TV ratings and advertising dollars. Skipper has pulled out all of the stops by hiring the best commentating team on the planet, and spending more money on this tournament than any other sports competition in the history of the 31 year-old sports TV network.

Other than not naming a US commentator to lead at least a few World Cup games on TV this season, ESPN hasn’t made a mistake yet. They’re treating this World Cup as it’s supposed to be which gets to the heart of what soccer fans love about it. While appealing to the die-hard soccer fan, they’re hoping that the rest of the nation will latch on. I’m confident that many of them will and we’ll see record breaking TV ratings this summer for the World Cup. Skipper is predicting a ratings increase of between 25-50% compared to the 2006 World Cup. As a comparison, the 2006 World Cup Final was watched in 16.9 million households.

I believe the World Cup Final can achieve even more of a ratings jump than even Skipper is predicting.

Ratings aside, I believe that the next two months will be known as the “summer of soccer” in the United States when the sport finally breaks into the mainstream. The NFL, NBA and MLB are still light years ahead of soccer, but I’m confident that the sport will officially become a mainstream sport in the country by July. You can already sense the level of buzz in the States now with less than three weeks to go before the tournament kicks off. Part of that is because of the Internet. Blogs and social media are the perfect mediums to help soccer go viral online. But I can also see and hear the enthusiasm in public here in the States — more than I’ve ever done before except for World Cup ’94 when the tournament was on our shores.

As America’s demographics change over the next decade, soccer will become even more popular across the country. This summer’s World Cup will be the tipping point. The timing will be perfect for the tournament to be a massive success in the United States. Everything is set. Now all we need are the players from the 32 countries to show us the beautiful game the way it was meant to be. I cannot wait.

Over the next several days, I’ll be publishing several of my World Cup predictions. Not necessarily which countries will advance from each group or which one will win the tournament, although I may throw one or two out there, but the predictions will more so be focused on other World Cup-related topics.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. 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 has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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109 Responses to Prediction: Soccer Will Become a Mainstream Sport in U.S. This Summer

  1. Rod says:

    I hope you’re correct. The officiating has got to be better than in previous world cups, the players have got to stop over-acting as if they’ve been shot when fouled and ESPN must de-emphasize some of the crowd background noise (those South African horns are coming) so that we can actually hear Martin Tyler et al.

  2. attaturk says:

    I’m very curious as to how the Champions League Final did in TV ratings in comparison to say the NHL playoffs that were on at the same time.

  3. Dave Trotter says:

    Well, I am a Blackhawks fan (in fact I live and die Blackhawks, so #1 team by far), so the NHL playoffs were doing way better than soccer in my household :)

    Still, I don’t know how it will do here. I hope you are right, but I am not sure.

    There are two major problems I see with soccer here in the US:

    1. Soccer always being referred to as a ‘girls’ sport. With women’s soccer being successful here in the US (as far as the National team that is), people who watch mainstream sports that don’t like to go outside the box will always view soccer as a women’s sport. And that is a stereotype that will never go away. I think most American soccer fans are those that are ‘worldly’ and think outside the box. The people stuck in their little American sports box will never leave. Heck, hockey even has problems with this, and it is considered a mainstream American sport.

    2. And this has always been the problem…soccer will be big here in June and July, but what about August? How many of us watch curling during the Winter Olympics? Crazy to say, but I did. In fact, many of us did. But how many curling matches have you watched since the Olympics? Yep, just as many as me, none. The same can be said with all non-mainstream sports in America.

    And another problem is that people don’t always get the best soccer here. Two of the teams that made the CL quarters (Lyon and Bordeaux) can’t even be seen on TV here. If you can’t even get one of the best teams in Lyon on television here in the States, then it shows our ‘real’ commitment to soccer.

  4. Robert says:

    I guess it also depends on how we define success. The big question is can MLS take advantage, or will US soccer fans continue to migrate to the EPL, La Liga, and Serie A. But I am sure Major League Soccer talk will address this.

  5. Mike says:

    I hope you are correct. The glass-half-empty side of me, however, remembers that the 1994 World Cup was supposed to make soccer a mainstream sport as well, and obviously it didn’t happen. You make a good point about ESPN, though — so far, so good in terms of their buildup toward World Cup 2010. Looking forward to it!

    • The Gaffer says:

      Mike, the 1994 World Cup was a “date” with America getting to know the World Cup. We’re now ready to enter the “Honeymoon” phase of the US’s relationship with soccer and the World Cup.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  6. sucka99 says:

    When was the last time America embraced a new sport? NASCAR took 20-30 years of fights on the track, Duke Boys in Hazzard and movies extoling the “great american story” before they took to NASCAR – and that’s hit it’s ceiling over the past 5 years or so.

    Americans love to cheer for America. America has no attachment to a bunch of guys who will filter back to their club teams far and wide that play at 10am and noon every Saturday on channels they may not get. The same thing happened to the hockey team – people watched the Gold Medal game then went back to their normal routine.

    By comparison, America doesn’t cheer it’s national basketball or baseball teams as much as they cheer their clubs. It’s how we roll.

    Soccer will be mainstream in the summer thanks to the Disney push. But will it be in the fall? It’s making strides but it’s still a long way away.

  7. New Englander says:

    How can soccer be accepted in the US when MLS is a joke of a league. Maybe, if there were more Premier Games on, people would pay attention, but the level of play, the unimagintive stars and the overall lack of production value for MLS games does not make it worth watching.

    I’m a huge soccer fan, but I can’t stand the MLS. The game moves slow, the entire game you hear those stupid horns and you know the level of play isn’t the best available.

    If ESPN wants to capatlize on the World Cup, make the Premier League a bigger draw, you already get a huge viewer audience, increase that by promoting the EPL, more fans are likely to watch that, then MLS.

  8. Jason Gatties says:

    I pretty much see this prediction every 4 years. I’ll see it again 4 years from now.

    BEAT ENGLAND

  9. Martin says:

    I agree that it will become mainstream and the World Cup will be huge this summer in the U.S., but the sport as a whole will not become mainstream in the U.S. in the months that follow. The best club football (by far) is still played in countries not named the United States, and the best players in the world are not American, so it will never really be that big here until that happens. The MLS just ain’t it.

    We have a superiority complex here. If we’re not the best at a sport (or at least one of the best), then it must be a “dumb” sport, or a “girls” sport, as one of the above posters pointed out.

    I for one have enjoyed the growth of the coverage of world football in the U.S. over the past several years (especially this year), and hope it will continue in that way. It doesn’t really matter to me that most of my friends could care less about football. I love it, and am enjoying the expanding popularity as it comes. They will see the light eventually, and if they don’t, it’s their loss.

    • Is that why you play sports that no one else in the world play? How can you call the yankees the world baseball champs and keep a straight face.
      No one else plays baseball because it’s shit boring and in England it will always be seen as rounders, a girls game played in English primary schools.
      What your really saying is the yankees are the best team in america and therefore as no one else plays the game, they are the best in the world. Sorry, but that is pathetic

      Get a game that atleast 10 countries in the world play and try to become the best at it, then maybe you can call yourself world champs.

      • JW says:

        You’re right, you guys have the market covered on thrilling sports like Cricket and Darts…

        (Although I do agree no American-based leagues should call themselves “World Champs”‘– quite silly.)

      • PhillySpur says:

        Poker,
        You must see a reflection of yourself when talking to an American who thinks soccer is a girls game. You’re just as ignorant as the people who bad mouth soccer because they don’t understand it or can’t get away from their provincial biases. Baseball is every much as beautiful as soccer and it’s played all over Latin and South America, as well as the Far East. I, like many other people, love both sports. I have spent many hours talking to English and Irish Expats and have learned a lot from them, while also helping them to understand baseball. Drop your prejudices and try to understand that just because you don’t understand a sport, it doesn’t give you the right to denigrate it.

        • I do understand the game, like i sais we grow up playing it or rounders as it’s called in engand, at out primary school. I don’t have to like it though or find it interesting.
          As for the comment about cricket, you are wrong, cricket is a fantastic sport. (darts is more of a game than a sport, like pool or golf)
          However, my point was not to argue about what i find interesting or what you find interesting my point was that you call yourself world champs in sports that you are the only ones that play, and that my friend, is pathetic.
          To me the fact that football is a ‘real’ world sport and you guys are crap at it is the real reason the game will never take off over there.

          • The Ultimate ABU (Anyone But United) says:

            Cricket is such a fantastic sport that it takes DAYS to complete a match. OH and let’s not forget that high suicide rate amongst Cricket athletes!

            Makes sense, because if I was only great at a match that was THAT boring and THAT sh*tty, then I would probably kill myself too.

          • The Ultimate ABU (Anyone But United) says:

            Cricket is soo fantastic that it takes DAYS to complete and its athletes are always on suicide watch.

            Makes sense though, I mean if I only knew how to play a sh*tty sport like Cricket, I would probably kill myself as well.

      • Jason says:

        Okay, this forum is full of uninformed people today. Poker Raceback this is to you…

        Baseball: United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Domincan Republic, Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, Venezuela, Austrailia, China, Italy, Spain, South Africa.

        That’s more than 10 but you get the point. There is a world baseball classic. The US doesn’t even win it so I’m not sure I get your point.

        As far as the Yankees comments. I’m a red sox fan but I’m okay with the winner of the best league in the world being considered World Champs. Are the winners of the NBA championship the best in the world? I woudl say yes… and basketball is certainely played in more than 10 countries so that should meet your criterion.

        In regards to the topic of the article. Football has come along way in the US. The MLS has average attendace of just over 16,800. That’s just behind the NBA and NHL of 17,300.

        MLS also is 12th highest attendance in the world. This is ahead of the Scottish Premiere League, BelgianFirst, Portugal First and all second divsions in the world including Germany and England.

        MLS and football in the states is up and coming and on the verge of mainstream.

        • UpTheBlues says:

          Go Red Sox! ;)

        • ‘As far as the Yankees comments. I’m a red sox fan but I’m okay with the winner of the best league in the world being considered World Champs. Are the winners of the NBA championship the best in the world? I woudl say yes… and basketball is certainely played in more than 10 countries so that should meet your criterion’

          This is why your sports are not real world sports, i would not call chelsea world champs just because they have won the epl (the best league in the world) and no one else in england would do either

          • Jason says:

            The EPL the best league in the world? I don’t know about that. Most popular… that doesn’t equal best. I would say England is the most balanced. Italy, Germany and Spain probably have the “best top talent”. England is much more balanced and competitive and I think that’s why the EPL is so successful.

            Basketball and Baseball are not real world sports? hmmm. I don’t think anyone is quesitoning that football/soccer is the most popular sport worldwide… however to say baseball and basketball aren’t world sports shows your lack of intelligence.

          • The Ultimate ABU (Anyone But United) says:

            Ha! You are supposedly English and yet called the Premier League as the EPL?!?

            F*ck off. Where you from? Malaysia?!?

        • ianm says:

          Sorry Jason but the 2nd Tier of the English League (The ‘Championship’) had an avaerage attendance of 17,952

          See here:

          http://itv.stats.football365.com/dom/ENG/D1/attend.html

          and do the math…Total of all Average Attendances = 430,848 divided by the 24 competing teams.

          So thats above NBA and NHL.

        • rugen says:

          Where did you get your attendance stats? I’m working on a project about the increased popularity of soccer (football/futbol) in the US and really could use this information. By the way…I am a US citizen and have loved the game since Pele in the early 80′s. I am a “girl” and played soccer in high school, but never considered soccer to be a “girl sport”. Both my sons and both my daughters have played the sport as well… Mia Hamm made it more popular among the “girls”.

      • Angry Trey says:

        “Get a game that atleast 10 countries in the world play and try to become the best at it, then maybe you can call yourself world champs.”

        Ummm… U.S., Japan, Australia, China, Canada, Mexico, Korea, China, Cuba, I can continue to go on and on if you would like? Those were just “some” of the countries from the World Baseball Classic.

        And what are all these sports that the United States plays but the rest of the world doesnt? There is one and thats Football. The rest of the world plays baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis and golf. Sorry that England cant manage to cut it in baseball and basketball.

        As for soccer becoming mainstream, it will be popular for a month and half and most the casual watchers will go back to what they were watching before. Soccer will gain new fans, but I don’t know how many of them would want to watch the low quality of play of the MLS after watching the World Cup.

        • How many of these countries you mentioned actually have pro leagues? Because i no for a fact that holland, italy and australia don’t. Unless you’re talking of a league similar to the type of league the english have in ice hockey or basketball, Half arsed league in other words. The english might even have an nfl league but no one goes to watch it and it’s certainly not pro.
          I’m talking about countries that take the game serious not countries like holland or italy that may have a few hundred people playing it and no one watching it. Get real will you

          • Jason says:

            Poker Racebook,

            You my friend need to get real.

            IBL : Italy baseball league been around since 1948.

            The reason no-one wathces English hockey or basketball is frankly because it’s not good quality. Honestly, it’s the same reason that Soccer/football has taken time to get started in the states. Nobody wants to watch terrible games.

            I belive peoples point, specifically to you is that you can’t make ludacris comments with no facts. You said name 10 counties, we’ve done that. No you are going back on that.

            With every sport there are 2-4 top leagues and then a huge dropoff in viewership and talent after that.

            Football: England, Italy, Germany and Spain. After that I mean I don’t see a lot of chatter about Turkey or Greece? There is a threshold. Even the SPL is behind MLS in attendance numbers.

            Baseball: US, Japan, Cuba. There are other leauges people don’t pay attention to just as in football. The US league might actually trail Japan and Cuba in quality, MLB is just starting to get Japanese players.

            Hockey: US, Canada and Russia. There are many others that don’t get the attention in Finland, Sweeded etc… Again, the past decade has seen the top Russians coming to the states. The Us hosts the league but it’s defenitely Canadas sport.

            These sports have to be competitve and worth mentioning if they produce the talent to win the national competitions.

            Let me know when you have a point of view that is credible and can be supported.

          • Even if you are going to count these countries with half arsed leagues, do you actually play any of them, do you have a competition that takes the best in america to play the best in these other countries, or do you not bother with that and just call yourself world champs without even bothering to play anyone else? what a joke

          • Duke says:

            @Poker Rakeback: You are the kind of provincial English troll that makes me glad we ran your asses out of here in the late 18th century.

            If you think there’s a possibility of someone beating the MLB World Series winner or the NFL Superbowl winner, I say, “Bring it.” There’s a reason why international talent comes to play these sports in the U.S. when they get a chance – just like U.S. soccer players go to Europe when they get the chance. If you have the talent to play at the highest level in the world, you go for it.

            Your dislike for the U.S. makes this no less valid.

          • UpTheBlues says:

            There is a professional baseball league in Holland, just FYI. I get your point though.

  10. Bob says:

    It’s articles and grand pronouncements like this that make the rest of us American soccer fans seem delusional and out of touch with American society. I’m an American. I love soccer. I love watching it as often as I can. And I don’t care if it ever becomes a “mainstream” American sport or not. But I can promise you it will not become an mainstream sport in the span of a few months. It’s nowhere near a mainstream sport right now. Right now it’s behind, at minimum, professional football, college football, professional baseball, professional basketball, college basketball, professional hockey, golf, tennis, and NASCAR. It’s going to jump a bunch of those sports just because of a tournament that has come and gone, and been heavily promoted, numerous times before? I think not.

    I for the life of me can’t understand why some of my fellow soccer fans want so desperately for soccer to become mainstream in this country, and are willing to proclaim that it will whenever the World Cup comes along. If you love the game, why can’t that be enough? Who cares if Joe down the street watches it too? By constantly telling those who aren’t soccer fans that soccer will be, and should be, mainstream you are just fostering more resentment toward our beloved sport and fandom, and again, making us seem delusional and out of touch.

    ESPN has heavily promoted the WNBA, too. And that league is a financial disaster that only survives because of the NBA’s money. ESPN promotion does not equal success. In fact, many viewers hate it when ESPN tries to force a new sport down their throats.

    • The Gaffer says:

      I’m not expecting the World Cup to leapfrog over NFL, NBA, MLB, etc this summer. But I do see it earning its right to be considered a mainstream sport in this country. And either overtaking or being on a level with the NHL.

      I want the sport to grow in this country.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Bob Stargell says:

        I did not mean to infer that I thought you expected soccer to becoming bigger than the NFL or the NBA. I listed all of those sports in order to illustrate just how many sports soccer is currently behind in the American-sports consciousness. I believe you would have to at least pass some of the less-popular sports – i.e., tennis and golf – to be considered “mainstream”. Soccer is currently very far down the list, so I can’t buy that they are going to be able to move to the mainstream level in a matter of months.

        NOT TO MENTION the fact that a lot of these games will be taking place during work days and during working hours. You are not going to hook in a lot of casual fans when a lot of the games take place while they’re at work.

        In an ideal world, yes I would like soccer to grow in this country. I wish ESPN aired 5 EPL games a weekend. But again, I don’t believe it’s realistic to think it will happen soon, and I believe that non-soccer fans get tired of us yelling at them about it.

      • sucka99 says:

        wrt the NHL – I would agree that soccer could pass the NHL in the fall, but only if they played the Champions League here instead of over there.

        Hockey fans don’t have to tune into the KHL at 10 am to see their world cup stars play in the fall. That will always keep soccer below hockey until we get the best players playing here.

    • rugen says:

      the reason these players want it to become mainstream is simple… dollars and sense! look at the number of truly talented soccer players that left the sport to play professional baseball, American football or basketball. while they were talented at multiple sports… these others provide them with more money than soccer can at this time. it’s very simple… the more viewers, the more sponsors, the more revenue.. all brings about higher salaries.

  11. Trent13 says:

    I think it will break the mainstream for the month the tournament is on. The american public will follow their team intently and they also will begin to identify who the top players in the world are, as there will be countless numbers of vignettes. I don’t believe that MLS is a strong enough product yet to hold the attention of america after the cup. Its a shame the next EPL season doesnt start July 17. I believe a league like the EPL would hold onto alot of those viewers with its top players and clubs. However, we will have to wait until August and by that time the american thirst for College Football and the NFL will be fever pitch. So I think a few MLS games will garner some nice ratings, and then fall back. I think like Gaffer said a few months back any real growth this cup cycle in the USA will go to the EPL from the new fans of their star players.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Trent13, yes, I agree that the EPL has more to gain from this World Cup than MLS. Unless that is, of course, if the US can do well in South Africa. Fingers crossed they can.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  12. M.Garcia says:

    Bob…

    I held some of the very same thoughts but was converted after two things happened. One, HDtv. I think if football in America doesn’t at least reach a sustainable level in television ratings, we won’t get EPL, La Liga, or any other league for that matter in SD let alone HD. Further, although FSC leaves much to be desired over how they’re handling the lack of markets they broadcast to in HD, it is nice to have more rather than less football coverage. Second, and perhaps more important, if you’ve read the book by Simon Kuper “Soccernomics”, if his formula holds true, and America does assert some sort of authority in World Football, it can only be helped by widespread serious interest in the sport, its world and domestic leagues, its personalities, and as a result, drive kids toward competing at higher levels and ultimately the national team.
    And by the way, I’m adding a third reason, the greater the general interest in football, the sooner we can drive that “final nail [as Jon Stewart said to Hugh Grant on the subject of the England/USA match June 12th] in the empire’s coffin” and shut jackasses like POKER RAKEBACK up for good. And you are a jackass POKER RAKEBACK !

  13. UpTheBlues says:

    It may become mainstream from June to July, but I think soccer will then drop out of the limelight again once the tournament’s over. The sport will probably gain some fans. But, I think that many Americans watching will become less interested once the U.S. is out of the tournament. “It’s not a true sport until the USA can win in it” is pretty much the mindset of a lot of Americans.

    • The Gaffer says:

      UpTheBlues, I disagree. Once the World Cup is over, we’ll have 2-3 weeks of Premier League teams playing games across the United States which will keep the momentum going and will lead in perfectly to the start of the 2010-11 Premier League season (which ESPN will be showing a lot more games this season than last).

      If we wait for soccer to become a true sport when the US wins the tournament, I’m sorry but we’re going to be waiting a very very long time. I don’t think it’s necessary for the US to win before soccer becomes a mainstream sport here. If it does happen, it’s an automatic. But I think most people realize that for the US to win a World Cup is a tall order.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • UpTheBlues says:

        I had forgotten about the friendlies. I’ll give you that one, Gaffer :)

      • BobbyB says:

        Americans love to follow big events but I have my doubts that the World Cup will make the game “mainstream” in the U.S.

        The last two runnings of the Kentucky Derby have received it’s biggest ratings in the last twenty years, but horse racing isn’t becoming “mainstream” because of it.

  14. cheese says:

    Sorry, but no……..you are far too optimistic. Soccer will not be embraced by America until we have a domestic league that is worth watching.

    • Jason says:

      My only comment on this is that while the MLS may not be on par with some of the other leauges. Talent is getting better and attendance is on the rise. 12th ranked league attendance wise. Ahead of SPL (scottish divsion 1), Belgian and Protugal division 1 and ahead of all Divsion 2 leagues including England.

      Also MLS average attendance is just over 1,000 fewer then the NBA and NHL. Granted, they play more games but it’s something to say we’re on the right track.

      A good product helps though…look at the Red Bull last year vs. this year. New stadium and a team that is winning and attendance is through the roof there.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Cheese, I’m all for the success of MLS. But I honestly don’t believe that a successful domestic league will determine whether soccer is a hit or not in the US. With US television, you can watch all of the best soccer leagues from around the world.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • cheese says:

        Gaffer, the game times are too early for it to draw a massive audience.

        The crew of diehards will continue to grow a bit, but it will not hit mainstream success for years and years and years. Maybe never.

  15. brn442 says:

    They have been saying that since 1990, even before with the NASL. Yes, for the last 4 world cups the coverage has been getting better, there is more exposure, more “soccer” specific bars.

    The impact of moving the CL final to Saturday and on network television has been understated, I was turned away by a new bar here in Brooklyn for the CL League Final because they were at capacity – that would’ve been unheard of even last year.

    As a natural progression, SA 2010 will draw in and convert even more loads of casual fans than Germany 2006 did, and Korea/Japan etc etc, especially with regards to bars. Will the sport be more robust after the WC, yes.

    However, the tipping point may come when the World Cup comes back to the States

  16. Ian says:

    I agree with the comment above; the progress and profile of the sport has been growing steadily over the past 15 yrs or so. Heck, MLS has done well, considering it is a baby league(15 or so years old). Be patient; with demographic changes, soccer’s constant rise is inevitable. and I also agree that getting the World Cup back to the US in 2022 wil be the tipping point!!!

  17. Andrew says:

    This article is only talking about the world cup. You are forgetting entirely the massive amount of friendlies from major clubs to be played in north america this summer. Tottenham, Manchester United, Manchester City, Benfica, all increasing interest in foriegn leagues, but also boosting support for our teams.

    The danger is that in today’s globalized world of instant access and communication we can watch the best anytime we want without hassle. Why watch a mediocre league at home when you can watch the english league every week? Support may be lacking until MLS picks up, which may not happen due to our school-based training structure. Though I will continue to watch MLS regardless of how painful it is.

  18. barry says:

    Pretty ironic this prediction, coming from a US-Based blog called “EPL Talk”, one which never, ever actually mentions (or promotes) the MLS with even a passing word.

  19. Tyson says:

    The sport will eventually grow in the US people act like a “foreign sport” has no chance in the US but the US adopted a number of sports with British origins(american football, golf etc). No reason this is any different its a matter of time.

  20. fsquid says:

    I’ll have what the Gaffer is drinking. We hear this every 4 years and still, soccer scores won’t be on the front of the Sports page and SportsCenter will never lead with a soccer game that isn’t from the World Cup.

  21. Hugh Macken says:

    Sport is tied to cultural “myths” / ideals that are deeply and profoundly embedded in the culture of a nation. Soccer needs to find a way to speak to American cultural myths in its own unique way (as football, baseball and basketball, among others, have done) if this prediction is to come true. I for one, do not see that happening anytime soon.

    • Seminole Gunner says:

      I agree that soccer needs to earn a place in American sports mythology, but I think this World Cup (specifically the match against England) provides an ideal opportunity to do exactly that.

      Defeating England (ideally in dramatic fashion) and following it up with a strong tournament showing is one of the best ways I can think of to help soccer find its place in the American sports scene.

      This is much, much easier said than done of course.

  22. RobG4 says:

    Gaffer, I think your hopes are getting the best of you.

    I don’t see soccer becoming “mainstream” in the US any time soon.

    I think it is mainly a cultural issue. American sports culture, and the fans who crave it, are ambivalent towards, if not downright hostile to, soccer as a sport and the people who play it professionally.

    What most Americans think about when they think of soccer is:

    -Girls game
    -Flopping
    -South Americans
    -socialist, effeminate Europeans
    -low scores
    -Us vs. Them (it ain’t American – we like sports we dominate)
    -its the safe, low contact sport parents can put their kids in from ages 3-12 to get them playing sports but not get them hurt

    Don’t get me wrong, I love soccer, the EPL, the World Cup, La Liga, etc etc. But the vast majority of Americans, especially those not living on the east or west coasts, could care less or actually despise it.

    • The Gaffer says:

      RobG4, while I admit that those soccer haters still exist, they’re definitely becoming less and less. Some of them are dying out. Some of them have been converted. Some of them don’t have the voice they used to have (including traditional sport columnists for local newspapers).

      These folks are getting drowned out by a very supportive ESPN and a growing soccer savvy population in the States. Plus, there’s the soccer mom culture and youth who have fallen in love with the game.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  23. SSReporters says:

    This prediction should be tied to how the US performs in the World Cup. We like winners. If they suck then it ain’t going mainstream. We’ll shunt it like we do with hockey.

  24. CA_backpacker says:

    I think RobG4 has it just about right. Plus, Americans’ with our MTV video culture have only about a 1-2 minute attention span, at best. Look at our most popular sports, they are all short quick bursts of action, with lots of commercial breaks. Your average American, especially our youth, just doesn’t have the ability to sit down for 45 minutes at a stretch and pay attention to a game where the action is ebb-and-flow in nature, not lots of “scoring”.

    I would be very interested in knowing what the ratings were on this weekend’s Champions League game, which was televised on main network Fox.

    I think soccer will continue to gain in popularity here in the US (and that is mostly a demographics issue) but I don’t see it ever getting the kind of following or popularity that our main sports have. Just look how slow companies like DirecTV are on giving channels like FS+ and FSC the bandwidth for HD! But I’ve been able to watch NASCAR, bass fishing, and golf in HD (as if I would ever want to)…

  25. ‘Ha! You are supposedly English and yet called the Premier League as the EPL?!?

    F*ck off. Where you from? Malaysia?!?’

    I live in preston which is in the north west of england about 20 miles from liverpool and manchester. I have lived here all my life apart from a few year i spent in stoke while at university.

    Where are you from? you must live pretty close to me the way you’re sporting your liverpool avatar and using the name anyone but united.
    Or maybe you’re just some donkey who lives in america and doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.

    • The Ultimate ABU (Anyone But United) says:

      I don’t know when to keep my mouth shut? Shouldn’t you take your own advice you plank??

      You come on here, a US based website, just so that you can talk sh*t on US sport because you have a chip on your shoulder. I am sorry that you can’t sleep at night because of your problem with US sports.

      Until then, remove your head from your ass, and get a life. If you can’t take it, then you should stop trying to dish it out.

      • lol, trust me i don’t lose any sleep over american sports, i just find it funny how arrogant you all are calling yourselves world champs when you don’t play anyone to prove it.
        he he he ha ha ha, what a country

        • KJ says:

          OK then, who would we play?

        • Shakira says:

          How many times will we hear from the English Media how well the English National Team will do with another “golden generation” yet fail and win nothing for how long has it been now? Arrogant people like you over there are what this sport doesn’t need. You think you are high and mighty yet your team has won f all in the past 20 years just like the USNT. It will be interesting to see if you come back on here if the US beats your 3 kitties teams. I would wager you won’t show up.

    • The Ultimate ABU (Anyone But United) says:

      Ha! Good one! Do you do stand up?

      Did you look it up on Google Maps??

      The fact you called it “EPL” tells me that you are definitely not from England, and are probably from some third world country.

      Nice touch on using proper English!

  26. man99utd says:

    Fox Soccer Channel averaged 141,000 viewers for the UEFA Champions League knockout round (28 live and tape delayed matches), down 51% from 287,000 for last year’s coverage on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Classic (20 live and tape-delayed matches).

    FSC doesn’t have the reach of ESPN. I don’t mean to bring up the FOX v ESPN argument but like it or not ESPN can reach far more homes than FSC. It will never catch on if the casual viewer cannot “stumble” upon it whilst channel surfing.

    • UpTheBlues says:

      I wish ESPN would just buy out all of Fox Soccer. Maybe they will, depending on the success of the World Cup.

  27. [OPTI]Madschester United says:

    the ONLY way soccer will become mainstream is if:
    1. Abandon the MLS system and setup local leagues in each state.
    2. Each state league will have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd divisions, etc… depending of number of teams.
    3. Winners of state leagues play in USA Champions League as well
    4. USA League will consist of other top teams from state league (Europa League equivalent)

    Having MLS centered in 16 large cities in USA does not make it a mainstream league — it only makes it profitable.

    The USL should be called the 2nd division and relegation/promotion into/out of the USL from MLS should be possible based on season performance.

    MLS needs soccer in all of America not just on soccer-happy cities like LA, NYC, Seattle, Toronto, etc..

    • UpTheBlues says:

      The fact that the US is so large is part of the reason of what’s holding the MLS back, IMO.

    • Relegation/promotion? First, it’s never going to happen. No owner/ownership group with any sanity would ever agree to it. Secondly, it’s a foreign concept that makes no sense to the average American sports fan. Third, are you sure you weren’t a sock puppet of soccerreform.us from the BigSoccer forums?

      • [OPTI]Madschester United says:

        Not sure I understand the sock puppet garbage you are spewing… but I am stating what I believe is the only way to have soccer being mainstream. There needs to be something tying all of America together with soccer and that has to be local (or near-local) teams.

        Americans love football and basketball because of high school, college, and pro programs that fulfill the role of local and near-local teams. When we have 16 soccer teams in America trying to showcase soccer there is an enormous population gap between those people with and without access to those 16 teams. USL is a good attempt at a 2nd division but I do not see the point of USL teams if being the best in USL does not reap future rewards…

        • Yes, I agree that in order for a sport to be nationally mainstream it needs to have some sort of local presence throughout the country. I just don’t understand why relegation/promotion should be necessarily linked to that.

          Relegation/promotion does not exist anywhere in the American sports landscape. All of the mainstream American sports exist and thrive without rel/pro, I don’t see how soccer would be any different.

  28. Now now yellow tooth, I like to call it as I see it too, so I would like to point out that you are what rhymes with a trucking bunt.

    I hope the US plays your boys off the park on June 12, and maybe that will wipe the smirk off your limey face.

    Lol, you’re right it would wipe the smile off my face but it’s not going to happen so suck my fat one. we’re goona hammer your crap team and i’m going to be back on here rubbing it in. Hopefully we’ll give you a good kicking like 6-0 and that way i can keep laughing at your crap team while you arrogant rednecks continue to go on about being world champs at shit sports like baseball.

    • The Ultimate ABU (Anyone But United) says:

      Arrogance? Do you even know the meaning of the word? Do you not read your own papers? You English bastards already award yourself the world cup before a ball is even kicked, only for your national team of overhyped and overpaid players gets humbled on national television.

      Once again, you are showing your true colors. Someone who has a chip on their shoulder. You should really seek help, especially if American sports bothers you THAT much.

      As a matter of fact, you should show more respect to us Americans. After all, it is us that saved your little island from speaking German. If anything was being hammered, that was the true definition of it.

      Now, suck on that yellow tooth.

      • ‘As a matter of fact, you should show more respect to us Americans. After all, it is us that saved your little island from speaking German. If anything was being hammered, that was the true definition of it.’

        LMAO, oh this is priceless. The war was going on for 3 years before you pricks decided to join and you only did it then because half your navy got sunk. Otherwise you would have gladly gone on doing F%ck all.
        The battle of britain saved out island not the yanks as they weren’t even f%cking there. We were the only ones holding out before your mob even step foot on our land, that’s why you were able to bring your troops over when you finally grew a pair.
        Usual American Arrogance which kinda sums up what i’ve been saying. A country who claim to have won the war when they weren’t there for the first 3 years of it.

        • ovalball says:

          Well, I hate to agree with Rakeback, but I have never understood why we Americans insist on the “We saved the world (twice!)” junk. We have a proud military history, but have no need to over-hype it. We entered WW I when it was almost over and only hastened its end. Germany was collapsing from within.

          As for WW II, Rakeback, is justly proud of the Battle of Britain. The RAF decimated the Luftwaffe and essentially ended all possibility of a Nazi invasion. We didn’t get involved until over a year later and only then due to Pearl Harbor. Again, we certainly helped bring an end to the war, but I don’t think Britain was going under. Hitler had unwittingly already sealed his fate with his June 1941 invasion of Russia…….Geez. Sorry about all that. Here endeth the lesson.

          Rakeback…..you’re still an idiot. :-D

        • Shakira says:

          We may not have saved Britian in either WWI or WWI but I do remember a bunch of rag tag colonists kicking your ass out of here despite being vastly outnumbered and having no Navy.

  29. Mike in Idaho says:

    I don’t think soccer will become a mainstream sport in the U.S. until the level of play in MLS catches up to the EPL/Serie A/La Liga. which I don’t see happening soon, if ever. I guess we are spoiled here but Americans are used to watching the best leagues in the world. It all comes down to revenue and buying the best players and I don’t see how soccer will generate the kind of revenue needed to do that, given the fragmentation of sports in this country (NFL, baseball, hockey, etc.) that either does not exist or is much less prevalent in other countries. Soccer and hockey are my favorite sports and I hear the same kind of nonsense how hockey will become a mainstream sport after all the Olympic exposure after each Olympics (which I think is a good comparison since they are events held every 4 years and get a lot of exposure that the sport doesn’t usually get). It never actually happens but it doesn’t concern me either.

  30. Lauren Novo says:

    I agree that this might finally be the year soccer becomes mainstream in the U.S.! With all the excitement and buzz surrounding the World Cup, how can the country not go crazy!? I think that Twitter will play a large roll in perpetuating the excitement as well. Think about all the conversations that can take place with #WorldCup #soccer and other game-specific hashtags! There’s finally a way for the U.S. to directly engage with other countries that have been celebrating this wonderful sport for years!!! Can’t wait! I just hope the craze continues past July…

    P.S. Dear Gaffer: I’m going to send you a private email with an idea for your “prediction” series in a bit…just a heads up :)

  31. erik the viking says:

    Sorry Gaffer your potty.
    By main stream , do you mean football, basketball, baseball?
    That wont happen in anyone on this sites life time.
    Could become something like hockey, but with the passion for European footy (Prem) and champions league.(in tv numbers)
    But not for the MLS- cant see it, we dont accept second tier leagues in the US of A.
    Im footy mad, by far my favorite sport, but it just wont happen G.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Erik, I mean mainstream as in NHL. And I don’t think MLS will do it. It’ll be the World Cup followed by the EPL.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • spurs Fan says:

        Gaffer,
        All Yanks care about is the big events – Olympics, World Cup, Wimbledon, etc. Though the game is making in-roads is just not part of the culture. The parallels with hockey is very similar. Though hockey draws well at the gate in most NHL US cities, it really isn’t followed by the casual sports fan. But in Canada its part of the fabric of the country. Most Americans couldn’t name more than one or two players on the US side, but could probably name 5 or 6 for England.

  32. ovalball says:

    Not going to happen, at least not right now. Of course there will be a little popularity blip due to the World Cup, but it won’t have any staying power.

    Soccer can not become mainstream in the U.S. until kids grow up wanting to be like…………(fill soccer player’s name) and their Dads start giving them soccer balls and scarves and taking them to matches. TV, alone, will NEVER do it.

    As a former middle school soccer coach I can tell you we have a long, long way to go. Despite all the youth leagues where we must have millions of kids playing soccer, the sport simply does not carry much weight beyond the elementary school years. Once kids get to middle school and start playing organized scholastic sports (which are what feed our professional ranks) interest in soccer by our best athletes simply disappears. The NFL, NBA and MLB rule. Period.

    I can not begin to explain the difficulty I had in even fielding a soccer team drawing from a 7th and 8th grade student population of 400…..and I was one of the most popular teachers in my school. The studs simply wanted to play the prime time sports, the ones with the stars. I couldn’t blame them.

    I think a successful MLS that can start to produce “Name” players would be the best thing for the long term growth and popularity of soccer in the U.S. I don’t know if that’s possible. I do think the MLS has made strides, particularly with purpose-built stadiums that can reflect some of that feel we all love about the EPL. Now if they can just improve the quality of play we might get somewhere, but there is more than a little of the “chicken or egg?” problem there.

    Nice thought, Gaffer, but I’m afraid it’s not to be just yet. Rose colored glasses and hope are no substitute for reality.

  33. JonesJunior says:

    Read a pretty good article in the National (UAE) today. It highlighted the two factors that will contribute to soccer eventually becoming a mainstream sport in the US: Youth and Hispanic influence. Twenty years from now Hispanics will make up a substantial percent of the US population. There will also be a new generation with disposable income who will be deciding which future trends take shape. I think these two groups will help make soccer in the United States a success. I work in this business and I’m still young enough to be considered the new generation of adults in America and I truly believe the sport will eventually hit mainstream.

    This World Cup? I think that’s a bit too early Gaffer. I think if the US wins the 2022 World Cup bid, we’ll be having the same exact argument 12 years from now. I also think different parts of the country will respond differently to the sport. I’m a New Yorker and if any of you have walked around Manhattan lately I guarantee you’ve noticed how many people wear European soccer jerseys (and no they’re not just tourists). Can this translate to some of middle America and in areas where American football is life? Maybe not.

    I for one love sports like hockey, basketball, and football. Never much of a baseball fan, but I can appreciate it. I don’t care if soccer never passes them in popularity. I do however wish that one day soccer can stop being thought of negatively in this country. If any of you have listened to Chris “Mad Dog” Russo or Jim Rome you probably realize how much people still belittle the sport, people who are naive and think they know everything there is to know about sports in general.

    Gaffer, I think the best part of this article is your bit about ESPN. You’re dead on. They have the influence and power to create sports fans. They know that by investing in this World Cup heavily they’re investing in their own future success and ultimately, profits. Soccer television rights are very very low in the United States compared to other countries. If ESPN can turn people into fans, they can turn people into EPL, Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1, Bundesliga, Liga Sagres, Eredivisie, and even MLS viewers. The culmination of which wouldn’t cost them as much as they pay for college sports rights.

    This World Cup will be important to shaping the future, but the results won’t be seen immediately.

    • This is america’s best bet. Let all the people from mekkico come through the border and slap a usa shirt on their back.
      If you don’t want to do that then parents and primary school teachers will need to play a big part in kids looking at football as the first choice sport to play. my parents have a photo of me with a ball at my feet when i was 2yrs old. I played football in the playground when i started school at 5 and i still play today aged 34.
      Parents and teachers are the ones who have to push the sport on the children and show them that the game is fantastic.
      Saying all that though, why bother trying to shove the game down peoples throats? if they like it, that’s great, if they don’t then that’s their decision.
      It’s very different over here, football is not only the number one sport it is the number one sport by quite a big margin. Cricket and rugby which are probably 2nd and 3rd are a long way behind. I can only compare myself to the fact that i can’t stand rugby and no one over here would ever get me to change my opinion of it. Maybe people over there are like this with football, they just aren’t into it and no one is gonna change their mind.

  34. CFTV says:

    While I think the profile of futbol will grow this Summer I don’t see the sport becoming mainstream or surpassing the popularity of hockey in the US. The issue is that the sport of futbol is so massive that American Sports Fans just don’t have the time to properly invest in becoming a fan that can keep tabs on everything that goes on in the Prem, La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga, MLS, Ligue 1, and Internationals. ESPN would need a 1/2 hour a night from August till May to report on all of the news stories that take place on a day to day basis and that is just scratching the surface.

    Where the NHL has an edge is in local press coverage. I am from Detroit and the Red Wings are one of the top NHL teams for years and get just as much coverage as the Tigers, Lions, and Pistons on sports radio and in the newspaper. Now I live in Tampa and the local radio station talks Lightning Hockey and the St. Pete Times features stories on the Lightning on a daily basis. As much as I love futbol that isn’t going to happen where the MLS gets a couple of inches below the fold or the only time a team from Europe is brought up is when they come on a tour of the States in the Summer because the MLS will never have the quality of player that the NHL has and teams from Europe can only come over certain times a year.

  35. jleau says:

    I love the game and I wish the Gaffer had some hope of being correct but soccer isn’t going to be anywhere near mainstream by the end of the summer. I do think this WC is going to be watched as many or more than any so far but that’s not close to mainstream.

    Soccer is growing and and I think it will become more and more relevant but it will be at leat 20 years before it’s mainstream. Hockey is a long way off and that sport isn’t close to mainstream.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Hockey isn’t “a long way off.” Just as one example, the 2006 World Cup game between England and Paraguay drew a 6.2 rating. The Stanley Cup game that day drew a 1.3.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • jleau says:

        C’mon that’s apples and oranges. I don’t mind spirited debate but don’t cherry pick. I wouldn’t compare the olympic ratings of figure skating to any sport and draw big conclusions.

        Looks like the Stanley Cup is a little higher up the food chain than the last CL final. I would guess the avg audience for a Prem game vs the NHL is really that close and the NHL is the winner. Maybe I’m wrong.

        It won’t always be that way.

  36. BobbyB says:

    Premier League games on ESPN get similar ratings as their coverage of the Little League World Series. The Champions League final on network TV drew a paltry 1.1 rating. The Kentucky Derby drew a 10.1.

    Until soccer starts performing better on TV than baseball games between 11 and 12 year old children and horse races, its got a long ways to go to be anything near mainstream. And it’s not even close to being as popular as the NHL.

    • The Gaffer says:

      That’s an unfair comparison. The Kentucky Derby was inaugurated in 1875 and it’s had *slightly* more time to embed itself in US culture than the relatively recent creation of the Champions League Final. The Little League World Series, as well, began as far back as 1947.

      As for the NHL, World Cup TV ratings often are MUCH higher than NHL finals. Hockey fans should be even more worried this summer.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • ovalball says:

        The NHL will never match the big three, but I don’t think it really needs to worry, either. There’s this little place called Canada……..

  37. Footballer says:

    Hey Gaffer, what is your problem? I thought you were from the UK. The game is called FOOTBALL. How do you expect football to take off in the States with its current ridiculous sounding name? And you just perpetuate it. Come on now. Show the sport respect, then you’ll see that America will too.

  38. Declan says:

    There are very few sports that can be called global. These do not include Baseball or American Football. It is interesting to see how the USA reacts to the most popular sporting event in the World. An event that is far bigger than the World Series, Superbowl, Stanley Cup and NBA rolled into one.

  39. DCUDiplomat96 says:

    I think some pure soccer folks who aren’t too familar with american sports. Don’t respect the american sports landscape.

  40. Andrew says:

    I was under the assumption, based on all of the english folks that I’ve met, that the english were gentlemen, when this pokerface clearly knows nothing of etiquette.

  41. Sorry to prove you wrong Andrew, I tell it like i see it which i think sums up english people far more that being a gent as you put it.

  42. “Sums up English people.” What a ridiculous thing to say. There are millions of English it’s absurd to think you can generalize such a large group of people. Utter nonsense.

  43. The Ultimate ABU (Anyone But United) says:

    Now now yellow tooth, I like to call it as I see it too, so I would like to point out that you are what rhymes with a trucking bunt.

    I hope the US plays your boys off the park on June 12, and maybe that will wipe the smirk off your limey face.

  44. Well it’s no more absurd than to say all the english are gents.

  45. Now now yellow tooth, I like to call it as I see it too, so I would like to point out that you are what rhymes with a trucking bunt.

    I hope the US plays your boys off the park on June 12, and maybe that will wipe the smirk off your limey face.

    Lol, you’re right it would wipe the smile/smirk off my face but it’s not going to happen so suck my fat one. we’re goona hammer your crap team and i’m going to be back on here rubbing it in. Hopefully we’ll give you a good kicking like 6-0 and that way i can keep laughing at your crap team while you arrogant rednecks continue to go on about being world champs at shit sports like baseball.

  46. You finally said something that makes sense. Congratulations, troll.

  47. I meant to reply to “Well it’s no more absurd than to say all the english are gents.”

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