Following the 2014 FIFA World Cup this past summer, soccer is showing signs of emerging as one of the nation’s favorite sports.
According to the New York Times, the U.S.A. vs. Portugal matchup in the World Cup reached the most views a soccer event has ever had in America with 25 million. This monumental milestone passed other events such as the NBA Finals, which averaged 15.5 million viewers, and the World Series, which averaged 14.9 million viewers, these are usually considered the top two and three sports in America. The sport has seen significant growth over the past few years. According to Forbes, the average MLS franchise, Major League Soccer, is worth about $103 million which is an impressive 175% increase over the last five years.
“[Soccer] was already one of the biggest sports in the world and now it’s shifting to America,” said Columbus sophomore, Miguel Maspons. Soccer gained popularity from the World Cup this past summer, as it opened American’s eyes to the sport.”I think [soccer is popular in the U.S. now] . . . because of the World Cup and people saw players that they could identify and they really liked soccer [during] the World Cup,” said sophomore, Miguel Angel Rodriguez.
Some may say that soccer will never pass the likes of football or basketball, but if the trend that started with the World Cup continues, the sport could reach the top. The NFL has owned the top spot in America for the past decade. According to Business Insider, the NFL owns nine out of the top ten most viewed sporting events in 2014 in America. This leads many to think, how can soccer dethrone America’s favorite sport? One word–health. The NFL has already had issues in the past with the NFLPA and lawsuits due to concussions and other serious injuries to past and current players. Football is a physical and aggressive sport. Many believe that the NFL could be forced to make significant rule changes in the future due to the health concerns of their players. This could change the way it’s currently played on the field, and subsequently impact it’s popularity.
The NBA has also been a rising sport over the past decade surpassing baseball as number two. They recently signed a new TV endorsement deal worth $24 billion over the span of the next nine years. Although the NBA is finally where it wants to be, it will not be able to continue to sustain it’s success like this for years to come. The NBA relies heavily upon the athleticism of its players, and sustaining their strength, speed, and health over an 82 game season, plus playoffs takes a toll on the players. Basketball, although not as physical as football, has had its share of season ending injuries because of the physicality of the play. One of the most popular point guards in the NBA, Derrick Rose, missed two seasons in a row after sustaining two different season-ending knee injuries. Kobe Bryant, one of the best players to play the game, also sustained a season-ending injury last year after only a couple games into the season. Basketball’s grueling and physical play, although entertaining to watch, leads to an uncertain future for the players and therefore the sport.
If both of these sports trends continue and begin to decline, soccer will be knocking at the door waiting. And who knows, maybe by 2018 when the next World Cup comes around, America’s MLS may be as popular as the NFL.