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Are You Ready for Some Futbol?

 

Liverpool vs Manchester City in Yankee Stadium (photo courtesy of Peter Roan/Flickr/New York/2014

Is the recent success of the men’s and women’s national team a sign of things to come for soccer in America?

The U.S. women’s national soccer team made history on July 5th when they defeated Japan to win the 2015 World Cup championship. The win gave the U.S. their third world championship the most of any country in women’s soccer.

The team also found redemption by avenging their loss to the Japanese team in the world championship game four years ago. The World Cup finale capped off what was an amazing stretch of soccer played by both national teams.

While the women were making their dominant run in the World Cup. The men were busy earning wins over seas against defending World Cup champions Germany and 3rd place finalist the Netherlands with both games being played in opponent’s home country.

The recent support that U.S. soccer has received for it’s success is a sign of the change that Americans have had with their attitudes towards the sport. The reputation and support for the U.S. women’s team can be thanked for record-breaking ratings FOX experienced during their coverage of this year’s World Cup tournament.

According to Sara Bible of TV by the Numbers, the championship game between the U.S. and Japan earned an average of 25.4 million viewers making it the most watched soccer match in U.S. television history. Bibel’s colleague Amanda Kondoljy reports that the women’s championship games beat the men’s final in 2014 between Germany and Argentina by over 8 million viewers.

The popularity of watching the game is not only as high as they ever been according to Daniel Cox of the Public Religion Research Institute the interest in the sport is continuing to grow. In Cox’s Huffington Post article he makes a case that soccer is gaining ground on American football in popularity.

P.R.R.I. research poll in 2014 revealed that Whites, Blacks, and Latinos were three times more likely to watch the 2014 World Cup no matter what their interest was to watch soccer on regular basis. Cox also points out that young people (ages 18-29) and Latinos are the biggest demographics who watch soccer.

The average age of soccer fans are lower than fans of football and baseball and the Hispanic population is expected to triple by 2050. These two demographic trends could be the reason why soccer could give football a run for it’s money as America’s national pastime in the future.

The love of the games has translated itself well from the TV screen on to soccer fields across the country as more athletes appear to have an interest in playing. According to the U.S. Youth Soccer governing body the amount of kids playing have increased from 103,432 in 1974 to over 3 million in 2014. The sport has even done better in youth participation than football, which saw a 10 percent decrease in 2013 according to E.S.P.N’s Steve Fainaru.

Davis Marino-Nachison of the Wall Street Journal chronicled the success soccer has had on expanding the game on the professional level in the America. Marion-Nachison talks about the new trend of internationally recognized soccer talent choosing on their own free will to play for Major League Soccer (M.L.S.).

The premier soccer league for America and what was once seen as a laughing-stock to the international community and a dumping ground for aging legends when they could not play on top-level any more.

Professional clubs like Sporting Kansas City (formaly Kansas City Wizards) are looking for new ways to find more professional players to expand their talent pool. (photo courtesy of Greg Beoge/Flicker/2010)

The article also mentions the major expansion that has happened in the first and second division pro leagues inside the country.The M.L.S. has expanded to 20 clubs as of this year and will be adding two more by 2017 (Atlanta and Los Angeles).

The second division leagues have made great strides in their expansions to give more players an opportunity to play on a professional level. In its first five years of existence the North American Soccer League (N.A.S.L.) has created 13 franchises as of this year and look to create another five by 2018.

The United Soccer League (U.S.L) has added 17 franchises to its league in the last two years creating 24 clubs in their first five season.According to Marion-Nachison eight of the division two clubs are owned by M.L.S.franchises who look to develop more talent to play at the professional level.

Soccer has finally hit a spot in America’s heart and will not go away anytime soon.
The games quick pace and continuous action makes the matches quicker than most of major sports in the country.

The small amount of contact in the sport will ease parent’s fears of long terms medical effects from playing it especially for children and teenagers. The appeal to the millennial and the continued growth of the Latino population will give soccer the momentum it will need to grow its popularity in the country.

Futbol may not overtake its American counterpart in the next five years but with time and the growth of it’s fan base. “Are you ready for some football?!” could one day have a completely different meaning.

Ben Abrams is the Collegian sports editor. He also writes the column, “I Left My Lunch in the Library”.

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