Football's Rise to Prominence in the US
Football’s coming home may have a new meaning within the next decade.
The United States has seen an incredible rise in popularity for the beautiful game with no signs of slowing down.
According to the information provided on the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), as of 2016 the USSF has over 120 million dollars in assets.
Compare that number to ten years earlier in 2006, where assets were just over 50 million dollars, over a 300% increase across a decade. (https://www.ussoccer.com/about/federation-services/resource-center/financial-information)
Additionally, according to US youth soccer, in 2016 over three million members played between the ages of 5 and 19.
This number makes US youth soccer the largest youth sports organisation in the country, even larger than little league baseball.
The astonishing growth in investment and in the grassroots game could turn the US into an international powerhouse sooner than later.
However, this uptick in popularity will mean nothing if fan engagement does not grow with the rest of the game.
To see if causal interest in the game has grown within the past decade, we turn to Google News Lab to see how specific search terms have trended since 2004 for both the domestic game and the international game.
Although there is no way to judge whether or not there is a defendant increase in fans, it gives a good baseline to observe search terms and trends over this time period in the US.
The first thing that was looked at were very general terms, such as “USA soccer,” and “MLS” just to see what the trends look like for the domestic product.
Obviously for the more general terms, there is a big bump around the World Cup, but it is still trending in the right direction as search interest has grown over each of the last three World Cups.
The MLS search was a little more interesting as there is an extremely high fluctuation since 2004 and the trends have even seemed to slightly decrease. Our next search may explain why this is the case.
To see how the international game grew in the US, trend searches were conducted for the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga. In every case, the trends have increased significantly since 2004.
This could explain why interest in the MLS interest has tailed off, even with expansion every single year. To put it bluntly, the MLS is a vastly inferior product to the European leagues.
Instead of being satisfied with the domestic league, Americans are searching for the better product, which could be seen as a positive for the future of US soccer.
It is impossible to predict what will happen to American soccer in the future. It could just be a phase and flame out in the next five years like the XFL, or the US could continue its ascension to the top of the football world.
All of the recent trends are seemingly headed in the right direction and in five years time, American’s may even be arguing who has the true rights, to “American football.”