Soccer is alive and well in America. Occasional, isolated sparks have combined with other elements to fuel a wildfire. Now, professional soccer events take place across the United States throughout summer months.
These events coincide with major international tournaments like the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championship to create legions of new soccer fans.
Not too long ago, many feared soccer would never take hold in the United States. Most Americans were exposed to baseball, basketball, football and hockey as kids, and they could follow those games in the media through the years. That wasn’t always the case with soccer, but times have changed.
Fans — old and new — are joining the rest of the world in watching big international soccer games. Some kids tune in at home in the early days of their summer vacations. Others have watch parties with friends and teammates. Many adults are sneaking out of work and going to bars to enjoy the sport. Others simply stay at their place of employment and watch on television or online. A lucky few just mix work and soccer to avoid any conflicts.
North American broadcasters are reporting that their television audiences for Euro 2012 are three times as large as they were for Euro 2008. The 2010 World Cup broke records, as did the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The 2014 World Cup is expected to smash those records.
Since the dawn of the Internet, soccer has been among the world’s most popular sports. Both soccer and the Internet cross borders, allowing fans to engage with players, teams and each other in endless discussions. The rise of social media has given fans new and exciting platforms on which they can make their voices heard. During Euro 2012, the names of soccer players and teams dominate Twitter’s list of trending topics. Facebook and Twitter users’ timelines become celebration or mourning zones depending on the outcome of games.
These events have a knock-on effect on the game’s growth in the United states. Some fans run to watch the nearest MLS game. Attendences in the North American top flight broke records in the 2011 season, and they continue to grow. Fans also fill the country’s biggest venues to watch elite European, South American and Mexican clubs play. Watching the game’s biggest stars play live ignites the dreams of those who hope to follow in their footsteps.
People no longer mock or make fun of soccer in America much. Those that haven’t been exposed to the game stay silent instead of attacking it (as they may have done in the past). Many more fans of other sports are willing to try it out. And the game usually entertains them. Sometimes, it even captivates them. The numbers back that claim.