Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, but here in the United States, most people don’t even know when the MLS season even starts. Why is this? Why don’t Americans appreciate soccer the way most European, African, South American, and Central American countries do? Will this ever change?
I’ve done some research and come up with a few theories.
It’s not violent enough- America’s two favorite sporting events are Football and NASCAR, both sports where the players put their life on the line. This isn’t changing. In fact, baseball, a less violent sport, is decreasing in popularity while, according to bleacher report, MMA is now the fastest growing sport in America. Violence does correlate to a sport’s success in the US, but why? Are Americans really more entertained by brutality than most nations? Answering these questions could very well help us discover if the lack of violence really is the reason for soccers lack of success in the US.
Low scoring- Americans are used to seeing dozens of points scored in NFL or NBA games. Because of this, low scoring soccer games can seem disappointing no matter how competitive the game is. Despite being a relatively worse game, a score of 112-105 could very well appear more exciting than a score of 1-0. The average American’s attention span is decreasing and could likely be taking soccers chances of succeeding down with it. If this theory were true, increasing scores, wether it be through bigger goals or less people on the field, should help the sports popularity in the states.
American Exceptionalism- This third and final theory is the one I find most likely. It is basically the idea that the reason Americans don’t like soccer is because we’re not the best at it. There could be truth to this as Americas four favorite sports are also 4 sports that Americans do extraordinarily well in on the global stage. America dominates most nations in football, basketball, baseball, and hockey, but we could very well lose to a small African or European country in soccer. We dominate just about every Olympic Games and call ourselves world champs in sports only we play. Our nations lack of superiority in soccer could be the reason for our lack of interest in the world’s favorite sport. Wether the truth or simply propaganda, most Americans truly believe they live in the best nation on earth, so if Americas not the best at soccer, then soccer must not be important, right? If the US one day wins the world cup and Americans still don’t warm up to the sport, this claim could easily be refuted, but as of now it seems to be the most likely explanation for this phenomenon.
The New York Times did an article about American Exceptionalism in the world of sports, it can be found here.
I’m not optimistic that soccer will be catching on any time soon in America. The sport isn’t getting any rougher, the number of goals scored isn’t increasing, and America is still not the best, but I could be wrong. While all of these factors could contribute to soccer’s lack of success in America, none have been proven to be the cause. Which do you find most likely? Is there something I missed that you think could be contributing? Let me know in the comments below.