By: Daniel Ferrer
English IV Honors
May 2, 2016
Thesis: Both playing and following the game of soccer has increased dramatically in the United States of America in the past forty years because it is a safer sport than other contact sports, social media has spread its popularity, and the sport has promoted national pride.
General Information A. How many people play soccer yearly B. Soccer Profits yearly C. Fan base increase
Safer A. Making soccer safer B. Concussions C. Safest sport?
Social Media A. Promotions B. Contests
Growth of Soccer in the U.S.
English IV Honors
May 2, 2016
Growth of Soccer in the U.S.
The world’s most popular sport is not the most popular sport in the second most popular country, the United States. Soccer is only the fifth most popular sport in the United States ("Top 10 Most Popular Sports in America"). The last forty years in the sport has seen a drastic change with the amount of people who play the sport. The sport of soccer still has a lot of room to improve in the United States. America has to catch up to the other countries worldwide who are known as powerhouses of the sport. Through social media, new medical records, and just plain American pride, the game is becoming popular.
The sport of soccer is in many aspects different from American-made sports. Most of the reasons it is not so popular in the United States is the rules of the game. Soccer is a low scoring game, a mainly defensive game, no stoppage of time, and the thing Americans hate the most, a tie. Most sports such as basketball and football consist of high scoring games; especially basketball with teams scoring more than 100 points in some instances. In baseball, the scores can vary from scoring between two to six runs a game. Americans like high-scoring games, and games that can end in 1-0 or worst of all a 0-0 tie, can be boring to watch. The most famous American athletes are known for their spectacular offensive stats (Bofah). Even the two most recognizable figures in the sport of soccer today, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, rank number one and number three in goals scored in this year’s La Liga season (“ESPN FC”). Therefore, the most well known athletes in soccer are known because of the features that Americans traditionally love about sports -- big offensive numbers. Even though soccer might be different from popular American sports, the part that Americans do love, high offensive numbers, is contributing to soccer’s growing popularity.
Some people might not like the sport of soccer due to the lack of American stars in the game. Americans love their sports superstars; reasons why names like LeBron James and Aaron Rodgers are so beloved (also hated) in the United States. The athletes in the United States that play the major sports such as basketball, football, and baseball, is that their bodies are uncomparable (Top 15 Reasons Soccer is Not a Major U.S. Sport). There is also a lack of commercials that people would use to go to the restroom in other sports. People like a minor break from the sport in between games and the only break people get while watching the game is halftime. Another problem is the fact that they allow penalty kicks. With games sometimes ending 0-0 or 1-0, a penalty kick means a lot in the game. The succession rate of a penalty is 72% (King and Silver). That one kick can turn the game around completely, that is why players tend to flop or an exaggerated fall in the penalty box leaving the game in the referee's hands. Leading to the debate to whether there are conspiracies in the sport and in such low-scoring games the kick matters.
The point is Americans love their high scoring, fast-paced games, but such sports do have their downfalls. Football is the number one sport in America. Every minute of each game is exciting, whether it’s a great run, long touchdown pass, or a bone-crushing hit on defense. People love the roughness and physicality of the sport. The athletes look like they’re some combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger and a lion, incomparable for a normal man to look like that. . Are people really willing their kids to play the sport and risk the highest chance than any other sport to get hurt? Do people honestly want their children to look like 6’5 345 pound monsters when they are adults? Football has had huge concussion issues, with their current and past players (Breslow). With some past players going to the worst option of all and that is committing suicide (Scott). People love the sport but they are not willing enough to send their kids into that sport knowing that it could lead to similar results.
Today, people want their children to participate in sports but they are being more careful on injuries, especially head injuries. A head injury can affect you for the rest of your life and people do not want that for their children. Throughout the past forty years more and more parents have looked at the sport of soccer instead of football (Reddy). With soccer, just like in every sport, there is the possibility of getting injured. It’s part of the game, people can get hurt even walking, it’s a risk everyone takes when they decide to take part in physical activity. In 2014 a program called “Safer Soccer” was created (“Safer Soccer”). It was created to educate parents, coaches, and players about the dangers of early introduction of headers. Their plan is for youth soccer to delay the introduction of headers till the kids are the age of fourteen. The number one risk of concussions in youth soccer is attempting to head the ball (“Safer Soccer”). Heading the ball wrongly has caused more than 10,000 concussions a year, ⅓ of all concussions in youth soccer. Soccer is the most common sport for concussion risk for females (“Sports Concussion Institute”). The impact speed of a ball being headed by a player is 70 mph. That is a lot of impact coming down on someone’s head, which is why Safer Soccer is making an attempt at changing the way people approach the game while still helping the sport grow. Through social media, programs such as Safer Soccer can spread the word and make the sport safer to play.
Social media has been one of the catapults that has helped launch soccer to a more global game. Social media is doubling every year for large soccer events (Reddy). In the opening week of English Premier League in August it reached over 62 million fans talking about it. More than 75% of those 62 million fans were from outside of the United Kingdom (Parkinson). Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, create contest for fans that could include meeting a star player or going to a hyped-up game (Parkinson). The good thing about these contests, they usually do not require much to do. It could be, follow a page/person and that person is in the contest. By choosing to follow an athlete, a fan could feel much closer with that athlete. They could see what the athletes thoughts are, views on things, and which teams they support; which can make the fan a fan of that team as well. The use of social media can also get young stars who are not at the professional level get recognized. Someone can post a video of a highlight film of the player and scouts from a professional team can see it and talk to that player. Social media also encourages engaging conversations between the fans, rival fans, and soccer enthusiasts. A page from a major soccer league can ask, “Which team is better?,” encouraging fans to talk about which team is better and why. Questions like that could be promoting a game. It could be a game with the two best teams of the league battling for the number one spot (Parkinson). It might also be a young new player on the rise or a veteran player that is on the verge of retiring. For example, Kobe Bryant will be playing his last game on April 13, 2016 and it is one of the most talked about games in the NBA season. The two teams that have the most followers on social media are FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, two teams from La Liga (Ozanian). These teams have some of the most revenue of all the teams in soccer, topping $230 million each team.
The teams that receive the most revenue always have some of the best players or are placed in heavily populated cities globally. The two most heavily populated cities in the country of Spain are Madrid and Barcelona (“Spain Facts”). Which also hold the two most famous teams in the world. The biggest sports in the United States bring in the most money. The number one sport, football, the NFL brought in 7.24 billion dollars last season (Brady). The NFL made enough money to pay for ten Pluto missions. During the Women’s World Cup in 2015, Fox earned forty million dollars in ad revenue.
It did help that the Women did end up winning the World Cup giving every American who watched the game a great feeling of Nationalism. Americans were extremely proud of what the National team accomplished. The only problem is that the Men’s National team does not share the same success which is a downfall in the growth of soccer in the United States. Soccer is a world’s sport with a lot of competition that many Americans do not like because of the lack of star athletes. It is easier to a play a sport where there are already American superstars than work really hard and be the first American superstar in soccer.
The best players on the Men’s National team are from immigrant parents or immigrants themselves (Zwick). When there is a player who turns out to be really good in soccer, it is someone from a Hispanic heritage. Which will lead to people calling that really good player a Mexican and he is no longer considered an American. People want to see someone they consider their own before they will follow the sport and make it more popular. However, the Hispanic population in the United States is increasing and more and more are watching the sport. Of all the Hispanics there are in the United States, 31% of them are soccer fans; more than double of the general population (Heitner). Out of the 31% of the Hispanics that are soccer fans, 75% are actively using social media such as twitter and facebook. It is said that the Hispanic population is the force that is driving the sport of soccer to be more popular. More people from the United States are talking about the game through social media and attendance is growing in MLS games. 20% of Hispanics watch and follow the MLS, 92% more than average population (Heitner). The higher the population of Hispanics, the more the game of soccer is popularized. The sport of soccer is the number one sport in Mexico (“Most Popular Sports in Mexico”). When those families migrate to the United States they bring their cultures with them and soccer is part of this culture.
The United States has a professional soccer league called MLS or Major League Soccer. It is similar to what the NBA is for basketball, MLB for baseball, and NFL for football. The league was started in the year 1988 (Huber). The league started out with ten teams and since doubled and grown to twenty teams. At the beginning of the upstart league it was having a rough time earning enough money. Americans considered soccer a foreign sport and there was no real fans that attended the games to begin with. Not only was there no fans going to the games, there were no star players in the sport making it difficult to think of a specific player. It was not till players such as Landon Donovan and Tim Howard that the MLS had two legitimate stars for the United States. In the year 2007, one of the most famous players in the world, David Beckham, decided to join the MLS at the end of his career (Huber). Since then, MLS has grown to a known league around the world, where players from European Leagues are coming to join it. The average attendance for MLS games have increased 40% from ten years ago (Reddy). The average attendance for Major League Soccer games are at 21,023 people. The Seattle Sounders, a team in the MLS, had a ridiculous 45,000 average for attendance considering what the average for the entire MLS is (Davis). The fans of soccer in the United States has increased dramatically in the past few years. The MLS is definitely growing, but it is a slow progression. More people watch the National team play than the league that was created in the United States. In a World Cup qualifier against Mexico, more than 2.3 million people watched the game on ESPN, more than double than any other qualifying game ever (Davis). On the other hand, during a rivalry game between the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers it only received 209,000 views on NBCSN (Davis). When the women’s national team defeated Japan in the World Cup in 2015 it garnered the most views for a soccer game in United States history. More than twenty five million people watched that game (Reddy).
Americans have developed the playing style of the Spanish called Tiki-taka. The playing style might be boring but it is effective. It involves making the safest pass instead of always a forward pass; so you can pass it backwards. People in the United States think it is a very boring game to watch. However, the Europeans and South Americans, where the game is the most popular, think it is a beautiful game. Then, there are others that think that tiki-taka is completely pointless and a waste to the game. “I loathe all that passing for the sake of it, all that tiki-taka. It's so much rubbish and has no purpose. You have to pass the ball with a clear intention, with the aim of making it into the opposition's goal. It's not about passing for the sake of it” (Guardiola).
Pep Guardiola invented the tiki-taka playing style and he hates how it is being used now. He stated that he does not like how the team passes the ball for the sake of it instead of having an intention with it. "And when we've done all that, we attack and score from the other side. That's why you have to pass the ball, but only if you're doing it with a clear intention. It's only to overload the opponent, to draw them in and then to hit them with the sucker punch. That's what our game needs to be. Nothing to do with tiki-taka" (Guardiola). Americans do not like that there is not as much attacking in the games and the constant passing backwards of the ball gets frustrating to watch. In soccer, they can pass it back and forth through the midfield line or the fifty. In an American sport such as basketball, if someone passes the ball behind center court after it has already passed it, then the other team gets the ball again. The plan was to speed the game up and create more scoring opportunities for both teams.
Soccer has many things such as the rules, playing styles, and the fact that scoring is scarce that Americans do not like. There is, however, the feeling of catching up with the rest of the world and the amazing feeling of national pride that people get after a great win against one of the foreign countries. Parents are also looking for a safer sport that their children can play and they do not have to worry as much about injuries to their kids. They also do not have to worry about potential health risks with their children. The kids being introduced to the new game are born into the game with new stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as idols to look up to. They also can look up to American born stars that play in the American league that is Major League Soccer. The sport of soccer is definitely increasing in popularity, slowly but surely. In twenty years, the MLS might have one of the most recognizable leagues in the world that European born players might decide to play in America rather than in Europe. The new superstars of the world might not be from Europe they just might be from the United States of America.
Documentation of Hours
Coaches meeting: 1 hour March 21, 2016
Indoor practice: 1 hour March 24, 2016
1st outdoor practice: 1 hour March 31, 2016
1st game: 1 hour April 9, 2016
practice: 1 hour April 14, 2016
game: 1 hour April 16, 2016
game: 1 hour April 18, 2016
practice: 1 hour April 21, 2016
practice: 1 hour April 28, 2016
game: 1 hour April 30, 2016
game: 1 hour May 2, 2016
practice: 1 hour May 5, 2016
game: 1 hour May 7, 2016
game: 1 hour May 10, 2016
practice: 1 hour May 12, 2016