Soccer’s popularity is ‘exploding in North America’

Image by: Nicholas Poblete/Panther Press

By Nicholas Poblete/Asst. Sports Director

 

Statistics show that the attendance and overall sentiments of Major League soccer have improved since the league’s inception in 1996, but, the league continues in what feels like a perpetual stage of “growth.”

“The sport of soccer is exploding in North America, and our league, MLS, is helping drive the sport at all levels,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber while presenting the upcoming Miami team as the league’s newest franchise.

According to data managed by Statista, Major League Soccer ranked third in average-per-game attendance out of the five major sports in North America during 2016-2017. The MLS attracted an average of 21,692 spectators into the many stadiums affiliated with the league. Only the NFL and MLB ranked higher than the MLS.

A 2017 Gallup Poll saw soccer at its highest popularity point in the United States of America, with seven percent of Americans saying it is their favorite sport. Although this number doesn’t refer specifically to the MLS’ popularity, it is evident that the sport itself has gained traction in this country.

Although these statistics demonstrate the growth of soccer in the United States, it would be foolish to think that the MLS has become an elite league, up to par with the top European leagues, with the best leagues in South America, or even the Liga MX of Mexico.

Soccer needs time to reach more fans in the United States. It’s interest is at an all time high, but compared to the more popular football, baseball and basketball, it is still a fairly new sport here. With time the sport will continue to reach more people, therefore creating more of a buzz around the MLS.

It needs time to grow. The more teams that come into the fold the better. More cities will be exposed to the culture of soccer and there will be more soccer-specific stadiums. A stadium is pivotal to the overall experience.

As I entered the Orlando City Stadium back in June 14, 2017, for the Open Cup game between the local team and Miami FC, I witnessed how Orlando’s fans had made the stadium their own. The supporter’s group has its own area, a standing-only area, and following the Pulse shooting, the team decided to pay homage by installing rainbow colored seats in its stadium.

Initiatives like these are what makes a stadium a key aspect to the overall game.

The league also needs time to increase its homegrown talent.

“Yes, we want to build a team and bring in top players from Europe, but the thing we are most interest in is the homegrown talent,” said David Beckham during the unveiling of Miami MLS at the Adrienne Arsht Center. “We will bring a state-of-the-art-academy. I’ve seen that when you bring homegrown kids into a team like this, that is when a community is built and you are proud of your team.”

As Beckham promises to break the norm of the league, which is bring established players from abroad, many teams in the MLS have already begun to fortify their youth system. Tournaments like the annual Dallas Cup, allows homegrown kids in MLS academies the opportunity to demonstrate their talents against teams from all over the world. The Dallas Cup is broadcasted on national television, giving these kids a great chance to display their talents in a professional setting.

While Major League Soccer is making important strides in order to become one of the United States most important sporting leagues, only time will allow it to truly solidify itself in our society.

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