For years, we’ve been hearing that soccer is going to take off in the United States. So, how are we doing? Well, in the past few years (really, beginning when the United States hosted the World Cup in 2014), we’ve seen a steady increase in new soccer players and fans. As is the case with other sports in America, the popularity of youth soccer will depend, in large part, on the popularity of professional sports.
The United States Men’s National Team filled stadiums and about 115 million fans tuned in to watch the excitement. ESPN recently announced that soccer is the second most popular sport in America among those aged 12 to 24. Further with over with over 13 million Americans playing soccer in the United States, soccer is the third most played team sport in the United States, behind only basketball and baseball/softball.
As far as the MLS, attendance has grown since the early 2000s. The average attendance of 19,151 in 2014 was a 39% increase over the 13,756 average in 2000. The total attendance of 6,185,773 in 2014 is almost triple the 2,215,019 total of 2002. Expansion teams have been a large part of the success but we have also seen growth in some of the original markets. The MLS has done a great job expanding in recent years and now sits in nine of the ten top television markets in the United States. They are in every region of the United States except the Southeast. However, that will change with the new expansion team in Atlanta. With two new teams, larger stadiums, and growing popularity, MLS could very well be above 20,000 in attendance across the league this coming season for the first time in its history. The league also just signed a $90 million national television deal to carry three to five games nationally each weekend and on several Wednesdays throughout the year.
So, all-in-all signs continue to be good for soccer in the United States.