Soccer, the ugly stepchild of American sports. Not accepted by England as “real football” not accepted by Americans because it’s considered boring and as one fan told me “because the clock goes up not down.” There is a soccer evolution going on in the U.S. With the MLS over taking the NHL in yearly average viewership just last year. As well as over taking baseball in youth participation jumping from 17.6 million in 2017 to 19.6 million in 2021.
What Trends are Emerging in US Soccer?
When kids are growing up playing soccer, you are going to have more and more fans. The more participation there is, the higher the popularity eventually becomes. However, that’s kind of a cop out answer. Let’s get into it!
MLS used to be the European retirement league. Old stars from the bigger leagues would come over and finish out their careers when they were no longer good enough for the top leagues. Now, MLS teams like the Philadelphia Union have begun farming talent from their home areas.
How has the US Soccer Landscape Changed in Recent Years?
Youth academies, secondary training and development teams, and MLS Next Pro have all grown the game exponentially and contributed to the evolution of soccer in the US. Take the Philadelphia Union as a prime example. Americans became obsessed with Brenden Aaronson of Leeds when he showed off swag and scored a goal against Chelsea.
He is from Medford, NJ, and was in the Union’s youth academy, then made it to the Premier League. The Jersey kid from Medford went for a $30 million transfer fee. That is the second highest transfer fee for an American player behind only Christian Pulisic. The best part? Union has his kid brother Paxten Aaronson waiting for his chance with the top-ranked Union. Aaronson came in during the game and immediately made an impact with three shots on net.
Do Americans Really Care About the Sport?
That answer is yes. Yes they do. I have gone to Power 5 football games, been in the bleachers of Yankees stadium, and sat in the lower bowl at NFL games. Nothing, and I mean nothing compares to the atmosphere at a Union match.
18,500 seats feels like 50,000 in this place. The Sons of Ben (diehard fans) are the most electric fan section I have ever watched live. One fan told me “Being in Chester and not actually Philly is amazing. People in Delaware County don’t have much going for them. We rally around the Union. It’s all some of us have.”
Union fans make it hard to be an unbiased reporter. They are all incredible. I stayed until the very end of a 6-0 win over a not very good Colorado Rapids team.
Soccer has Changed and America is Coming with it.
The MLS is changing how soccer is seen in the U.S. The league inked a deal with Apple TV that will allow fans to watch any game with no blackouts, something the MLB has failed to do. Gave fans a sense of togetherness with homegrown players getting to stay home and grow with a fan base. Gaining stars overseas — in areas like Brazil and Germany — and having a competitive national team again just in time for the 2022 World Cup. Soccer is on the rise in the USA, and it’s time you join the revolution.