Soccer soars in the United States
Soccer’s popularity has grown rapidly in the United States over the past three decades.
Soccer is now the fourth most popular sport in the United States, after football, basketball and baseball. Thirty-one percent of Americans call themselves soccer fans, an all-time high, according to a 2019 Gallup survey. Between 1990 and 2017, the number of Americans who called soccer their favorite sport increased sevenfold.
So why are more Americans playing and watching soccer?
World Cup provides a spark
Caroline Foscato, president and co-founder of the of Soccer Unity Project, a youth soccer nonprofit in Boston, said the United States hosting the FIFA Men’s World Cup in 1994 and FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1999 served as “huge launch pads” that sparked soccer’s popularity in the country.
Lucas Richardson fell in love with soccer as a 10-year-old watching the 1994 World Cup on television. “I can remember watching those games and that’s when I think the hook set in,” said Richardson, now with group Soccer Without Borders, which uses the sport to promote global equity.
U.S. women’s team’s success
While the U.S. men’s national team has struggled to catch powerhouses in Europe and Latin America, the U.S. women’s national team’s success has helped drive the sport’s popularity in the United States. The women’s team has won four World Cups and four Olympic gold medals, starting with the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991. In 1999, 40 million U.S. viewers watched the women’s national team defeat China.
“The reality is that nationally and internationally, it’s the women’s side that has really propelled the sport here,” Foscato said.
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