The big four professional sports (MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL) are the most popular leagues in the USA. The Daily Mail said that football had become the fourth most popular sport in the US in 2021. Moreover, according to the ASFA (American Sports and Fitness Association), 17,8 million Americans played football inside or outside that year. Only 2,3 million people played hockey.
The average age of a baseball fan is 57, and the indicator grows every year. People who are interested in football are about 35 years old. Note, that football is in second place among the Americans from 12 to 24 years old.
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So, what are the reasons for the growing popularity of football?
The growing income from the TV broadcasts
The research company “Ampere Analysis” found out that 49% of American sports fans watched football games on TV, while 39% preferred hockey games.
Nowadays the rights to football broadcasts cost about 700 million dollars per season. The hockey broadcasts are much cheaper.
The progress of the Major League Soccer: the league expansion, expensive franchises, and attendance records
MLS’ first season was in 1996. They had only ten teams and now they have 28 teams (three of them are from Canada) that are selected to the Western and Eastern Conferences on a geographical basis. Two decisions led to the wild growth of the MLS:
— the introduction of the designated player rule or “Beckham rule” which means that MLS can sign up a player that would be considered outside his salary cap. This rule allows teams to choose the biggest international stars.
— the national television contracts. According to Nielsen’s research, the public interest has increased by 27% since 2012. And the league continues to develop despite the fact that it lost 1 billion dollars because of the pandemic.
By the way, Americans still love watching games at the stadiums. MLS has set some records during the last few years. For example, there were about 73 019 viewers of the game between the Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers in 2018. And 74 479 fans attended the game between the Sharlotte and the Los Angeles Galaxy in March 2022.
The development of talent
The United States Soccer Federation established the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in 2007. It has become the first centralized system that prepares players for professional games. Many scouts were looking for new sportsmen for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Later, these football players had been training and had been playing for ten months. About 100 clubs have been established under the auspices of the Academy throughout the country. Boys and girls are trained on the methodologies that were developed by the USSF.
There are three ways of the players’ promotion: junior league, college football, and fee-based educational programs.
The progress of the women’s national soccer team
Women achieved equal rights with men in the football wages after their record: they won four world championships — in 1991, 1999, 2015 и 2019 гг. FOX Sports says that about 20 million viewers watched the finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019. It is more than 18% of the audience of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The presence of the European clubs
La Liga and Bundesliga have their representations in the USA. FC Barcelona and FC Bayern opened their offices in New York. Foreign clubs expand influence and brands through academies, international offices, digital content, pre-season games, participation in ICC, and partnership.
In 2026, the USA together with Canada is going to hold the biggest World Cup in history. There’s gonna be 48 participants. By this time, football probably will be more popular than some other sports.