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Episode 143 - Why Isn't Soccer More Popular in the US?

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Soccer is by far the most popular sport worldwide, but it has struggled to gain a foothold in the American media market for decades. Stephen has become a recent convert to soccer fandom, even co-hosting a soccer podcast with his son, but James has not been swayed. Today, our decidedly non-jock hosts will look into the reasons why soccer ranks so low in American favorability, despite the fact that game attendance figures in the United States are surprisingly high.

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Hey guys, love the show.


I've thought and written about this discussion a lot so I'd like to offer a few viewpoints of why soccer hasn't reached the popularity of baseball, basketball, or football that wasn't touched on during the episode:


1.) The highest levels of professional basketball, baseball, hockey, and American football are all in North America. The biggest soccer leagues, however, are in Europe. Because of this, historically, U.S. TV viewers weren't exposed to the best soccer in the world and U.S. athletes weren't pushed to participate in it because reaching the highest level would mean they'd have to leave the country - an idea that's unheard of for the other sports here.


2.) Soccer, in contrast to it's relatively inexpensive formula, is very expensive in the U.S. and is generally only embraced by upper class demographics and immigrant populations. Because of the fragmented fan base building a community aspect is more difficult.


3.) Culturally in many parts of the country is viewed as a lesser sport. On a larger stage, look at what many, many sports writers say about the game. There exists a loud, proud anti-soccer legion of sports viewers.


4.) The success of professional sports leagues in North America didn't depend upon globalization until recently. One could assume that may play a part in the negative aspect to some viewers. The NFL, for instance, is the most homogenized big sport in the U.S. and is easily the most popular.


Also, Altucher's point about scoring has stuck out to me. It's funny because pro football - again the most popular sport in the U.S. by far - tacks extra arbitrary points to scoring. Imagine if a goal in soccer was worth six points like a touchdown.

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First off I love the show in general. I tried to listen to this episode but soccer really, really does not interest me. I listened to about 10 minutes and had to go to the next episode. My kids have played soccer, I even went to a professional game in Barcelona. It really is just not interesting to me. The crowd was fun, but nothing like an american football game. I also think Americans hate how the soccer players over dramatically pretend they are injured, it is like watching kids play.

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