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Soccer In The US: Participation And Popularity Statistics

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. There is no doubt about it. However, it continues to struggle for the limelight with more popular sports in the United States of America. As per statistics, Soccer in the US is the fourth most popular sport and popularity is on the decline.

The country hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1994, which was expected to be the launching pad for the game in the country. However, even though the game’s popularity has increased in the country since then, it still pales compared to other major sports such as Basketball and American Football.

Soccer Players By Region

This feature will look at significant statistics about soccer participation statistics and soccer popularity in America. We will also compare soccer to other major sports in the United States.

How Many People Play Soccer In The US

24,472,778 is the number of Americans who play soccer at some level according to the FIFA Big Count on World Football. FIFA surveyed 207 countries for this study. It confirmed that soccer has remained the number one sport in the world. The number of soccer players (male and female) is now 265 million worldwide.

Throughout certain parts of the country, especially in the south, the game is extremely popular. Others don’t have as much interest in the game.

Soccer Participation in the US – Indoor and Outdoor

As evident from the graph above, Soccer in the United States has witnessed a decline in recent years after hitting its peak in 2009-10. The ’90s and the ’00s were the golden decades as it reached new heights of soccer popularity in the US.

This rise in the popularity of soccer in America can be attributed to the Major League Soccer (MLS) success and the success of both national teams – men and women. However, the same hasn’t been replicated in on-pitch participation among US soccer fans, especially in the last decade.

USA Youth Soccer Players By Region

A NY Times report in 2018 mentioned that between 2015 and 2018, the participation rate among 6-12 year olds dropped by 14%. The report explores that the birth of the ‘pay-to-play’ culture has made the game inaccessible to a large part of the population, especially in underprivileged communities. Furthermore, there is also a lack of structure at the youth level.

“My family would not have been able to afford to put me in soccer if I was a young kid today,” Hope Solo, the former US goalkeeper, admits. “That obviously alienates so many communities, including Hispanic communities, the black communities, the rural communities, and underrepresented communities. Soccer, right now, has become a rich, white kid sport.”

Female Soccer Players By Region

Another plausible reason for the decline in soccer popularity is the general decline of interest in outdoor sports among the youth. A study from the Aspen Institute claims that the interest in outdoor sports is at an all-time low in the United States.

It is very evident in the above graph that even basketball has witnessed a steep decline in numbers during the period. On the other hand, baseball has broken the trend as it has seen a steady increase since 2015. However, this increase has come after a long period of gradual decline.

Indoor Soccer vs Outdoor Soccer

In the Indoor Soccer vs. Outdoor soccer comparison, we see that outdoor participation has decreased gradually since 2008-09.

In 2008, outdoor soccer participation topped at 13,960,000. And in 2018, it has dropped to 11,405,000. This means that the participants had reduced by more than 18% in the period. In terms of the share of the entire population, the figure has dropped from 5% to 3.8%.

The numbers for indoor soccer have seen a gradual increase. In 2007, 4,803,000 (1.5%) people played indoor soccer. In 2018, this figure increased to 5,233.000 (1.7%)

US Youth Soccer Statistics

From the State of Play 2020 report from the Aspen Institute, we see that the share of kids aged 6-12 who regularly play soccer has gone down in the last decade. In 2008, 10.4% of kids aged 6-12 regularly played soccer. However, this figure went down to 7.4% in 2018. In 2019, it slightly increased to 7.7%. Regardless, it’s a decrease of 26% from 2008 to 2019. In terms of actual numbers, 2,216,000 kids aged 6-12 regularly played soccer in 2019.

Ages 13-17 Playing Soccer

When we look at the age group 13-17, the decline is still present. However, it’s not as drastic as it is in the case of kids aged 6-12. In 2018, 7.9% of kids aged 12-16 regularly played soccer. This figure went down to 6.8% in 2018 and then increased to 7.1% in 2019. So it’s only a drop of 10%, which is relatively less than the drop we see for ages 6-12. Hence, the decline in youth soccer participation statistics has been felt more in the age group 6-12 than in the group 13-17.

High School Participation

According to data from the NFHS High School Athletics Survey, participation has steadily increased among high school students. In 2009-10, 3,91,839 boys and 3,56,116 girls participated in soccer at the high school level. Overall, 7,47,955 high school kids played soccer.

Read: Check out our wide range of articles on women’s soccer.

In 2018-19, 4,59,077 boys and 3,94,105 girls played soccer in high school. The boys’ participation increased by 17.2%, and the girls’ participation increased by 10.7% Overall, the number has increased to 8,53,182 – an increase of 14%.

Cost of Playing Soccer in the US

According to another study from Aspen Institute, on average, a family spends $537 per kid in soccer. This comprises various costs such as registration, equipment, travel, lessons, and camps.

Is soccer popular in America? When we compare it to other major popular sports in the US, soccer lies somewhere in the middle. It is more expensive than basketball, tackle football, and track & field events. However, it is slightly cheaper than baseball and significantly cheaper than sports like Ice Hockey.

Soccer Fans In The US

Thirty-two percent of U.S. adults characterized themselves as soccer fans, including 7% who described themselves as “avid fans.” According to a July 2019 survey, neither of those figures has changed significantly since then, suggesting the Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t adversely affected interest in the sport.

The respondents were asked whether they identified as fans of each of the following sports or leagues
In terms of popularity, Professional Football, Baseball, College Football, Basketball, College Basketball, and Ice Hockey all ranked higher than Soccer.

Soccer fans were more than half (54%) under the age of 45. That was more than any of the other sports included in the survey. NBA Basketball was next at 51% followed by the National Football League at 46%.

Compared to general sports fans, soccer fans are younger and more diverseIn addition to soccer’s diversity, 40% of fans of color support the sport. Hispanics formed more than a quarter (27%) of soccer fans in the U.S. Fans of the National Basketball Association are about as diverse as soccer fans, with 39% being people of color.

There are 40% of young adults ages 18-34 who consider themselves soccer fans, which is higher than the general population. According to the more focused sample of Generation Z adults, 47% of them are soccer fans, placing it above all other sports in the country.

More than half of Hispanic Americans (55%) say they’re soccer fans, compared to only 33 percent of Black adults, 31 percent of white adults, and 43 percent of other races.

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The Impact

Soccer’s popularity among younger and Hispanic adults suggests the sport is on a trajectory for growth. Which leagues and entities can capitalize on that potential growth, however, remains to be seen.

Unlike other sports, in which the top North American leagues essentially have monopolies on top-level competition, soccer fans’ interest in the sport is spread among Major League Soccer, Liga MX, and several major European leagues, as well as international competition.

While MLS has grown in-person attendance to more than 20,000 per game and expanded to 29 markets, its TV viewership has suffered in part due to competition with other leagues. This could all change in 2023 when Apple TV starts broadcasting giving millions of Americans access to every Major League Soccer match.

After failing to qualify for the World Cup in 2018, the U.S. men’s national team could play a considerable role in sparking interest among casual fans and non-fans with a strong showing later this year in Qatar.

Read more on USA soccer players.

Summary

After a period of gradual success, it seems like soccer’s popularity in the United States is going through a moment of crisis. The interest levels among kids have gradually decreased during the last decade. Furthermore, playing soccer has become expensive in the country.

When compared to other sports, the cost of playing soccer is still not astronomical. However, the game is more prevalent in the nation among underprivileged communities such as Hispanics and Blacks.

This has had an adverse impact on the game’s development because it has become inaccessible to a significant number of kids in these communities. In the year before the Covid, we witnessed an uptick in the interest in the game in the community. This report also claims that soccer participation is once again on the rise in the United States.

Soccer’s most prestigious tournament, the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be staged in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Will this give the participation numbers a boost like they did in 1994? Let’s wait and see.

Printable 2022 World Cup Wall Chart

  • For all SOCCER FANS out there, this is for you!
  • Track All The Scores And Follow The Full Schedule!
  • |nstant Download - Print Up To 1500 x 1000mm
  • Deluxe printable poster designed especially for the FIFA World Cup With Fixtures, Dates, Stadiums, And Start Times

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