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What’s the One Thing That Needs to Change to Make Soccer More Popular in the USA?

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The popularity of soccer in the United States is growing by leaps and bounds, but there’s still a huge amount of potential to make the sport an integral part of an average American’s viewing experience.

Due to the size and tradition of the country, the US has — until recently — been a tough nut to crack for the beautiful game Stateside.

But based on your opinion, what do you think is the one thing that needs to change in the United States to make the sport more popular here?

It’s a broad topic and there are many angles you can come at the topic, so feel free to make it your own!

Share your honest opinion in the comments section below or on our social media platforms on Twitter, Google+, Facebook and Reddit.

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49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. chipes

    November 26, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    there’s nothing you can change. soccer is boring and un-American and will never be popular here! and if you like it, you’re probably a communist/terrorist!

  2. MntD

    November 21, 2014 at 7:42 am

    The use of hands and tackling.

  3. Gringo

    November 18, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Invalid thread topic, the rise of soccer in the USA is self evident.

  4. Patrick

    November 18, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Soccer is growing in the USA. The MLS is doing better, the foreign leagues are becoming more popular, and the game is growing more popular at the lower levels as well. I think too many people are expecting soccer in the US to make some monumental leap in popularity overnight. Thats just not going to happen. It has to grow, and it will probably take a entire generation to do so still. We are trying to compare a relatively young soccer culture and domestic league to European and South American soccer which has been going for 50-100 years.

    If I had to pick one thing that would help the most, I would say more coverage by the mainstream sports media. More games on, more advertising games, more coverage on the general sports news shows. In turn that would raise the popularity level, and also give a higher profile to the MLS bringing in more money and better players. Unfortunately its hard to make that happen when the media would rather spend that time on the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL.

    Those that love soccer here in the US just need to be patient. Its going in the right direction, it may not be as fast as we like but it is still going in the right direction.

  5. pied

    November 18, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Time…

    Not sure what some people’s expectations are, but I can say as a nearing mid-forties guy that I never saw it getting this big. When I was young I watched some of the few broadcasts of the ’82 WC. I watched every ’86 WC game, the vast majority of which were on the Spanish channel. You might be lucky to have some scores or table in the paper, but that was about it.

    Fast forward, my club is Liverpool and I can see(or dvr) every single game they play this season live on my TV or phone. I have regular conversations at work and other places about the games of the weekend.

    Funny enough, I can only see about 15-25% of my local FC Dallas games on TV and feel much less connected even though I get to go to about 4/5 games a season(along with our indoor team the Sidekicks).

    My son(8 year old) and I went to Chicago to see them play and my family hav tickets to the Burnely game at Anfield in March. When I was a kid, nearly zero kids I knew could name one or two soccer teams, these days the kids have much more availability and 7/16 kids in my son’s class listed “pro-soccer player” as the job they’ll have when they grew up. One said hockey player, none listed baseball/football and this is in the middle of the Texas football hotbed.

    Time…

  6. Mark Williamson

    November 17, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Some very good comments here. For me there are two things that would help solidify the sport as a mans sport here in the U.S.. No disrespect to the ladies teams or the ladies that watch. I only use this terminology to try an equate a sport that has to equal American football in roughness and strength. I have absolutely no doubt that soccer players are the most athletic of players in all sports. I have no doubt that they can take a bang and pounding during their 90 minutes of play, but the love of God please, please, please get rid of the diving-that’s number one. Number two, use video replay if you have to to stop the diving and faking of injuries. That to me demeans an absolute fabulous sport. Get rid of that and the sport will gain so much credibility in this country. I am really happy to seeing it do well, but will be even more so if they can fix these two things.

    • Future Man

      November 17, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      I agree. I kinda spoke to it in my comments above. I love soccer more than every other sport and by far and love includes my intense hatred for fake, cowardly diving and faker injuries. So if a sport with such terrible coward actors and no instant replay is this good, just imagine how good it would be without them.

  7. Smokey Bacon

    November 17, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Why are we still having this pointless debate that only serves to rile up trolls like Tim? Soccer has arrived in the USA end of. I don’t care if it gets more popular from here. Haters gonna hate. Lets just enjoy what we have which is outstanding coverage of the top leagues, champions league and international soccer. And MLS is getting better too.

    • Ben

      November 18, 2014 at 8:29 am

      I think the MLS becoming a better league will be crucial for the game to become more popular than it already is. You’re right that the league is getting better, but there’s still a long way to go.

      I think there are a few topics being discussed that have the opportunity to have a huge influence in the long run. The merits of playing high school and college ball are being called into question. I’ve already seen instances of players opting out of high school soccer and choosing to play exclusively with their MLS or ODP affiliated club teams. The ongoing conversation about the structure of the college season is a breath of fresh air too. I think that, if the high school trend continues and the ideas around the college season are implemented, it could go a long way in both making the MLS a better league as well as giving the US a better opportunity to compete at World Cups.

  8. Toby

    November 17, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    The only reason soccer wasn’t bigger sooner was because of the US media to treated it like a minor sport up until recently and gave it almost zero coverage. With a young generation that use the internet more than traditional media and more people being exposed to soccer in the mainstream media it has made the sport explode in the US. MLS has helped in creating a local fan culture that is so much more distinct and authentic compared to other sports that is attractive to Americans.

    The world cup proved Americans like elite level football, so to make the sport bigger American soccer has to become elite level so that means the national team and League.

    America needs that world class player or players that are considered the best in the game. When you see how big cycling became in the USA thanks to Lance Armstrong, imagine how big soccer would be if there was an American LeBron James figure in soccer. In the 1990s basketball briefly became the number one sport thanks to Michael Jordan. An American dominating in a truly global sport would be a bigger star and elevate the sport in America.

    MLS as the domestically league needs to bring in star players from around the world at their peak, in large numbers at all the best teams. The old soccer American soccer league was huge when they had all the big name players, but the league was mismanaged. I doubt the MLS will be able to do this in my life time because the big European clubs have expanded their brands globally so there is no room for American teams to muscle in on the global market that they need to do to get the sponsors to pay the wages to attract the best at their peak.

    But to be honest soccer is already big in America because it is the second most popular sport for American under 25. It is just a generational change will lead the sport at the very least being number 2 in the USA. Why do you think the NFL are desperate for a London team, they can see the younger demographics are changing and need to expand outside of America. Remember in the 1970s baseball was the number 1 sport and in one generation change it is slipping to fourth or even fifth.

    • Javier

      November 17, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      I couldn’t have said it better myself. I think soccer will replace baseball as the generational effect will take place in time. Younger fans don’t want to sit and watch a sport (other than football, as it is ingrained in the culture) go on for 3.5 hours. Soccer games only take 2 hours and are great for those that have limited time for sports.

      Also your point about an American star is right on. American soccer needs someone dominating that can play with the best. Like Jordan, but perhaps similar to what Tiger Woods did for golf. Landon Donovan could have been that guy but his personality and a poor WC in 2006 turned off most. Clint Dempsey developed late, played for a relegation battled club, and had a hard time with Spurs. Adu was a major flop and is nowhere to be heard of now. Its too late for Altidore now and Julian Green is definitely not like Raheem Sterling right now. Casual fans will look for that one star player that carries the team. The media attention on SportsCenter of that star would be a huge momentum boost for the sport. Just like that star QB, shooting guard, or HR slugger. I have noticed when SportsCenter has time for highlights, they show Real Madrid or Barca highlights, not Chelsea, Man City, or Bayern. Why? Not for those team but because Messi or Ronaldo plays for them and did something amazing that game.

      MLS will have a hard time with casual or Eurosnob fans because, they want to see the best, if they are investing their time. Until MLS becomes like the NBA where foreign stars in their prime want to play here (a destination league), it is likely to never garner mainstream attention.

  9. Bishopville Red

    November 17, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Without giants, you can’t have the giant killers that provide so much appeal to any sport. The “any Given Sunday” mantra simply doesn’t apply to MLS.

    The biggest problem with footy in North America is that we have a parity-based model as our domestic league. Parity can work well in other sports – NFL has a virtual rotation of champions, nobody repeats in NHL anymore. But each individual game a team plays still has its own merits.

    MLS, parity translates to DRAWS. The degree to which the (Handi)cap limits teams means that the league is riddled with tied matches, which leave fans underwhelmed. You can’t artificially implement a tie-breaker system without getting gimmicky, so regardless of the built-in incentive to play for 3 points, nowhere near enough teams can do that.

    I know why the cap exists, and I recognize its value to the viability of MLS, but at the very least, it needs expanding so those with more financial clout can exercise it.

    SB

    • Toby

      November 17, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      I think that is an old fashioned view. I think the younger generation are more open minded and open to new ways of thinking than the older generation, which is why soccer is extremely popular with the young and not popular with the older generation.

      What you forget is soccer is the most played sport in America so people playing understand that draws are part of the game. The only reason soccer didn’t get bigger sooner was because the US media blackout soccer for the mainstream media so as soon as Americans became older and stopped playing the sport they lost a connection because they couldn’t see it anywhere. Now things have changed with FIFA video games and real mainstream coverage in the US media. This is why soccer ranks higher than basketball, baseball and hockey for Americans 25 and under.

  10. goatslookshifty

    November 17, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Americans haven’t completely embraced soccer because their not the best at it. If the Mens US National Team won the World Cup, this country would go football mad. The Olympics is another example. Americans don’t give a toss about certain sports in the games until Americans start doing well at it.

  11. StellaWasAlwaysDown

    November 17, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    There isn’t any one answer to this problem. But if I had to choose one, then I would say that Americans have so many other sports to choose from. We have the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and then you have their college counterparts. Simply put, there are a ton of choices compared to a lot of countries where soccer is the main one with maybe rugby or cricket as a second choice.

    Then most of the highlights shown from soccer are MLS highlights. That definitely won’t draw them in!

  12. yespage

    November 17, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    There is probably 1 in 5 Americans that will refuse to like Football. They are so poisoned politically, that they will refuse to acknowledge the sport.

    Honestly, the bigger problem could be advertising. It is a hard game to shove 1+ hour of commercials into.

    And US Football popularity in rural areas, the South, Texas, Florida is tremendous for high school and college. Has been for a century. Football has actually always been the nation’s pastime… it was just Baseball got away with saying otherwise for a while.

    It is growing in the US, but it’ll take another generation or two to really settle in. Probably compete with the NHL.

  13. tonyspeed

    November 17, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Give the average American a good education and stop brainwashing them with jingoistic propaganda.

  14. Tony

    November 17, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Commented this morning to my Russian friend how weird it is that many of the largest countries are weak at soccer (USA, China, India and the terribly fading Russia).

    • Total Relegation @totalrelegation

      November 17, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      Learn some Geography my friend. Brazil is the 5th largest country by landmass and Argentina is number 8.

      • StellaWasAlwaysDown

        November 17, 2014 at 3:47 pm

        Maybe learn some comprehension? He said “many of the largest” and listed USA (4th), China (3rd), and India (7th) as examples. He’s not wrong.

      • yespage

        November 17, 2014 at 3:50 pm

        If based on population, of the top ten, only Brazil is a giant.

        What is considered weak though? Nigeria, US, Japan? Not powerhouses, but they are better than say Pakistan, Indonesia, and China.

  15. Future Man

    November 17, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Um…the wussy/fake diving and subsequent screaming only to pop up two seconds later fit as a fiddle?

    This could be a complaint from my american football fan friends, but NFL is the most popular sport here by far with college football right behind it. its a sport of tough guys with big hits.

    I love soccer more than any other sport now but i will admit i cannot stand it when a player screams in pain due to a trip and fall on some grass…my 2 year old son did that yesterday. he was fine.

    • Future Man

      November 17, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      most americans i think would love soccer if they though it was cool to like it

    • yespage

      November 17, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      The more I’ve watched Football, the more I see the diving and falls in the NFL.

    • tonyspeed

      November 17, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      Have you ever been stepped on in Nike Mercurial Vapours. Yeah, I didn’t think so.

      • Future Man

        November 17, 2014 at 4:05 pm

        C’mon, you know what i mean. any player who falls for whatever reason, before he even hits the ground has intiated “fake scream – look to be in pain mode” and then the replay will confirm there wasn’t even contact. I wish replay would be used retroactively like stop lights that take a picture and players would receive a notice in the days after a game a fine if they faked it.

      • Flyvanescence

        November 17, 2014 at 5:06 pm

        I FEEL YOUR PAIN. Dang! It hurts.

  16. Bergkamp_10

    November 17, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    The fear of soccer taking over as the main sport in the country. US needs to embrace soccer not ridicule it. Most tv stations and radio I listen to just take pleasure in bashing the sport, saying it’s 22 men just kicking the ball back and forth, or there is no need for umpires in football because they are joke, or just the general lack of trying to understand the beautiful game in it’s purest form. The tide is turning and those that are bashing the sport maybe left behind in few years time.

    • tim

      November 17, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      Yes…we are far behind this sport being popular. I will say this until im blue in the face but your local radio or national radio will not be talking about QPR vs West Brom…The only way this happens if its one of our domestic leagues. Until that happens soccer will be regarded as the 6th or 7th sport here.

  17. Tim

    November 17, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    It will become popular when the Eurosnobs realize what reality is. Face it HS football is more popular in the USA than soccer(not that i am proud of it). Which is also crazy in a country that can support NFL to College to HS and have no issues with the quality on field. Face it the sport will never progress if people keep brushing off domistic leagues because mainstream media will NEVER cover an import league like it does NFL, NBA, MLB which is the driving force behind growth.

    • supertrev

      November 17, 2014 at 5:46 pm

      Unfortunately it’s gonna be a long,long time before Soccer will supplant High School/College (gridiron) football in the SunBelt and NorthEast. Seems to be growing in popularity out West though

  18. Gary

    November 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    While soccer has grown and TV coverage is at an all-time high, it is still not as popular with the majority of American sports fans. MLS isn’t as popular as it should be and the only time most Americans become interested is when the USMNT plays. In relative terms soccer is more popular than it has been but nowhere near the level of any of the other American sports, like football, baseball or basketball. It may even lag behind hockey.

    Part of the reason is that the jounalists who cover sports still have a bias against soccer. Until that changes and soccer begins to be discussed in the same way as the other sports soccer’s popularity will remain sporadic.

  19. Rick

    November 17, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Soccer has grown so much in the last 30 years in the United States. Used to be the only way to get scores was the Sunday paper. It’s time ESPN committed to a 24 hours soccer channel. They’ll get better ratings than some of the junk they have now.

    • Eddie

      November 17, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      An ESPN soccer channel wouldn’t work for the following reason:

      2018 and 2022 World Cup rights are held by FOX

      Premier League rights are held by NBC

      Serie A, La Liga, and Ligue 1 rights are held by BeIN

      Bundesliga rights are held by FOX (starting in 2015)

      ESPN holds the rights to certain MLS broadcasts, some UCL games which they sublicense from FOX, and some international matches, and the quadrennial European Championship. Not NEARLY enough to merit their own full soccer network.

  20. Ivan

    November 17, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Quality of MLS is still appalling and it’s borderline unwatchable…majority of teams practice kick and run style of anti-football dating back to the late XIX century; playing on artifical turf doesn’t help…that and all the shady single entity ridiculousness that is holding the league back, and, by extension, soccer in this country.

    • jtm371

      November 17, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      Spot on Ivan it is awful plus plastic pitches.

    • Tim

      November 17, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      ya the bottom half of the epl and every team but the top five in la liga is soooo great. What a joke.

      • jtm371

        November 17, 2014 at 1:21 pm

        Your mls champion would be lucky to competitive in the Championship League. To compare any mls club to any EPL club is hideous. That is how you mls fanatics think. Enjoy it for what it is a not very good League with over the hill over paid players.

        • tim

          November 17, 2014 at 1:27 pm

          Haha no one is saying its great but I watch quite a bit of EPL and that lower half of the table is crap. Keep living in your fake english wana be world though.

          • jtm371

            November 17, 2014 at 1:49 pm

            You proved my point thanks 🙂

      • Flyvanescence

        November 17, 2014 at 5:07 pm

        I take it you dont watch Spanish football. An MLS team wouldnt get near the ball against the majority of teams in the Primera.

        • Javier

          November 17, 2014 at 6:33 pm

          Neither would a lower level EPL team for that matter.

          • Flyvanescence

            November 17, 2014 at 6:50 pm

            I agree.

      • Mark Williamson

        November 17, 2014 at 7:48 pm

        Tim, you are obviously not watching the same EPL that I am. Look at the stats and see how close every team is this year. Please speak using your brain not what you are wishing. You are among those that want to see soccer fail in this country. Guess what? It is here to stay. Love it or stick to what you like.

  21. Total Relegation @totalrelegation

    November 17, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Soccer is already popular in the United States! MLS is the one that is not popular in the United States. Please stop confusing the two.

    • Tim

      November 17, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      Soccer is far from popular. It still gets made nearly everywhere i go. Stop living in you pro/rel bubble.

      • Tim

        November 17, 2014 at 12:59 pm

        “made fun of”

        • Mark Williamson

          November 17, 2014 at 7:44 pm

          No from what I see and here, people are starting to get why all the hype.

      • Total Relegation @totalrelegation

        November 17, 2014 at 3:26 pm

        The basis of your argument for soccer not being popular is that it gets “made fun of” speaks volumes of your lack of critical thinking skill. Did it ever dawn on you to look at the facts and see how much money is being spent on this sport domestically for the World Cup and international leagues?

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