America’s Lost Sport

When thinking about the United States’ most popular sports, soccer is never mentioned despite being the most-watched and followed around the world. Major Division I universities around the United States like the University of Florida, the University of Texas, and even the University of Southern California do not have a men’s soccer team. Every four years it seems America galvanizes around the sport of soccer for the World Cup, but after that, it is nowhere to be found in accessible media. The question becomes, why are football and basketball more popular in today’s day and age then? The massive sports media outlets gloss over soccer and skip to the major sports like football. Sometimes soccer isn’t covered at all or even talked about on sports talk shows. The sport of soccer has some of the best athletes from around the world but they are lost and forgotten about by almost everyone in the United States. Talking about soccer in America is not as cool as talking about the true American sport of football. While soccer is not from the United States, it is the world’s game and should be recognized on all fronts in America. 

Watching daily sports shows gets redundant at times. The same people are on every single day talking about the same things as the day before. Seemingly the one theme preventing people in America from loving soccer is the culture that is presented in the country today. Some say the game is too slow, while others just don’t see a reason to watch it. The quality of soccer is also an important factor when it comes to being intrigued to watch it. The MLS is continuing to get better as a league but is still nowhere near the level of the Premier League. Toronto FC recently signed Napoli star Lorenzo Insigne to a four-year contract which is a step in the right direction for a league on the rise. The MLS is also a young league compared to the NFL and NBA, only being founded in 1993. Comparatively, the National Football League was founded on December 17, 1920, in Canton, Ohio. If soccer would have been incorporated into the United States earlier then maybe it would have been more popular. Men’s soccer is continually getting more coverage, but on the women’s side, they are treated as if they don’t exist. How many people in America actually watch the NWSL? I would say very few, and that is a sad fact, as some of the best soccer players in the world on both the men’s and women’s sides play there. While the MLS is growing as a whole, there is still a lot of work to be done. The interest within the community usually changes based on events that are happening around the world like the World Cup or the Euros as referenced before. A study has been done to show the improvement that soccer has made. A study conducted by Ampere Analysis, late in 2021, revealed 49% of United States sports fans claim to like watching soccer on TV, ahead of ice hockey which has plummeted to 37%.

Besides that, I am not here to talk about the improvement that soccer has made, I want to talk about how much further it has to go. While the public audience may be adjusting to soccer recently, the media has not. Many large companies that cover sports say they are “ratings-driven,” but that answer undoubtedly is not good enough. This country is football-obsessed and that is clear when you look at the statistics. During 2020, the top ten sporting events with the most TV viewership were all football games, even a regular-season game made the cut at number eight. On top of that, Sunday Night Football was the most-watched TV show on NBC during 2020. I understand that these massive companies are trying to appeal to the masses, but that is not their job. Catering to a variety of sports fans around the country should be the goal, the greediness of obtaining “good ratings” prevents the ethical way media companies, especially in sports, should be run. The big heads on these talk shows only know a few sports, which is a problem when many leagues feel completely left out. 

The Champions League final is probably the biggest sporting event in the entire world every year, but the United States never capitalizes on it. People may not be as into the game like the Super Bowl, but the atmosphere in the Champions League is like no other around the world of sports. The people of the United States should be exposed to that, but the bias and “ratings-driven” idea has steered our viewing culture into a one-way lane. A survey was given out by Statistica on what the interest level is for soccer by age in the year 2020. According to the data, 47% of people between 18-29 are said to be “not interested at all” in soccer. The percentage goes up to 62% when the age is increased to 65 and up. The greatest “very interested” percentage was just a woeful 13% for people between 18-29 years old. American culture has tunnel vision and has had it for years sports-wise. College basketball is even viewed or talked about more than professional soccer because of the way it is promoted to the population. March Madness is publicized like no other event throughout the year. Both the MLS and NWSL start their season at the end of February and the middle of March, and it continually gets no publicity to the majority of the United States. 

While the major sports in the United States will not go away, the variety of recognition has to be ameliorated. The focus should not just be on the NFL, and NBA despite the “ratings-driven” culture that we live in today. The United States has lost soccer among the others and now has to try to patch up its relationship with the sport. With players like Christian Pulisic, and Weston McKinnie bringing notoriety to the sport of soccer in the U.S, we could see an uptick in popularity. Although that may be true, the fact is it will never pass the likes of football, and basketball. With Americans’ low attention spans, soccer will always be known to the majority of the people in this country as the “forgotten sport” that will never be their own.