I know it still has a very, very long way to go until it reaches the levels of the 4 major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL) but I get the sense that more and more people are starting to get on board with our soccer teams. This is especially true for the two senior national teams and some of the popular MLS teams like Seattle and the L.A. Galaxy (having big name players always helps…just look at the Yankees). Why do I think this you ask? Well mainly because of the sellouts and record attendances we’ve seen at some of the international friendly matches. A couple months ago a U.S. match in Tampa, FL against Scotland drew a record crowd. A few weeks after that another record crowd attended the match against Brazil in Washington D.C. A friendly against Costa Rica for the U.S. Women’s senior team was sold out in Rochester, NY; because you know Rochester is a giant metropolis. Okay so it does help that it is Abby Wambach’s hometown but still, not very many WNBA games sell out (no offense). However, the match in Rochester wasn’t the only match to be sold out on the Women’s team’s gold medal victory tour. Tickets for a match against Australia here in Denver went on sale last Friday and by Monday only standing room only tickets remained. Unfortunately, I forgot to buy my ticket so I won’t be attending. I know Denver does have a pretty good soccer base but the stands at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park haven’t been completely filled for every game this season. The only game to sell out so far was a match against the L.A. Galaxy but the majority of the people weren’t coming to see the Rapids play.
If you’re still not convinced, let’s look at the U.S. Men’s road World Cup Qualifying games. The first and only road match to date was at Guatemala and was pay-per-view only much to the chagrin of tons of supporters who wanted to watch the game. As a result tons of fans filled soccer bars all across the country to watch it. A few weeks ago an up-and-coming sports network known as beIN Sports bought the rights to the U.S.’s road World Cup Qualifying games and thousands if not millions of people petitioned their cable providers to pick up the network. It is now currently available on DISH, DIRECTV, and Comcast. Of course, it is only on special sports packages but the cable companies are really hurting right now (please follow the blinking neon arrow to the sarcasm sign). More and more people in the U.S. are becoming interested in soccer and I think a lot of it has to do with ESPN’s spectacular coverage of major international soccer tournaments such as the World Cup (men and women) and the European Championship (UEFA Euro). They cover all the matches across all their networks and even provide them live (and free if you’re on a college campus...one of the very few perks to graduate school) online. NBC couldn’t even manage to do that with Olympics (McKayla Maroney is still not impressed).
Even though I think it is growing and really starting to take hold, I think the U.S. will have to host a World Cup before the fan base can reach the next level (really FIFA Qatar 2022?). Well hopefully we can snag the World Cup in 2026, especially since Denver, Chicago, and Indianapolis were all host cities on the 2022 bid. Hopefully, soccer continues to grow in popularity and our fan bases (National Teams and MLS) continue to strengthen. So if you’re thinking about starting to watch soccer, head down to your local sports bar tonight and turn on the away match against Jamaica. It should be a great game. If you need some helping finding the match click on the links below.
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