Finally getting over the stigma of the “mom sport” associations that made it seem milquetoast back in the 90s, soccer is finally on its way to becoming a major player in American sports, according to ESPN.
The ESPN Sports Poll recently named soccer as the second most popular sport in America for people aged 12-24, and stars like Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and David Beckham are all as popular as many of the top NFL, NBA, and MLB athletes.
Part of that is down to soccer’s fanatically devoted subculture. According to Rich Luker, the architect of the Sports Poll:
It is a true community. The only group that comes close are college sports fans or followers of the Grateful Dead. They embrace soccer as a communal lifestyle as opposed to a personal experience or a community that only exists on gameday.
But soccer in the United States is more than just an insular community punching above its weight. It’s currently positioned as the sport with the most potential for growth in a crowded sports marketplace.
How long will it take to get there? “We are talking generational change,” Luker said. “A generation of kids have now grown up as having MLS as part of their reality. Give us one more cycle and that is all it will take. One more generation.”
Luker is bullish about the rise of MLS, given that 7.2 percent of Americans describe themselves as fans of the league. “That is 25 million people, of whom MLS can only currently account for about 5 million, a fifth of their potential audience,” he said. “If the league gets its marketing right, there will be massive growth.” Luker reinforces this bold claim by revealing a remarkable 50 percent of those who declare any interest in soccer ask to know more about the MLS when three percent is considered a positive response rate in the consumer product industry. “MLS’s problem is they only have 19 teams and no regular national television presence,” Luker said. “Right now, you are not going to bump into their product but they are working hard to change that.”
Read the full story over at ESPNFC. It’s worth your time.