While Americans certainly aren’t as big of soccer fanatics as the rest of the world, Landon Donovan and his crew have ushered in a splurge of soccer excitement across the states. According to our latest poll, a quarter of the country reports being more excited about watching soccer because of the World Cup.
The World Cup caught the attention of young adults across the country. 39% of 18 to 29 year olds report being more excited about soccer following the World Cup. While the majority of Americans (81%) haven’t played soccer, those who have are of the younger generations. 22% of 18 to 29 year olds and 29% of 30 to 45 year olds report having played organized soccer. These results reaffirm that soccer is a newer phenomena in the United States and suggest that soccer popularity could rise as it continues to take root in American communities.
Soccer hasn’t had a strong following in the United States but it’s not because Americans think soccer “un-American.” 81% of say there is nothing “un-American” about soccer. If soccer isn’t “un-American,” why haven’t Americans rallied around soccer like they have other sports?
Many suggest it is because of the American sport superiority complex, the concept that American fans are only interested in leagues and teams with the best players in the world.
But maybe it is because of the way soccer takes root in the United States. We didn’t add an income demographic question to this poll, but I would be interested to see those crosstabs. In the United States, soccer is a sport of the suburbs, a sport for upper middle class kids. But the reason soccer is so popular around the world is because anyone can play it and everyone does. It has long been considered a sport for the poor—but not in the United States.
In his article “How a Soccer Star is Made,” Michael Sokolove pointed out that in order to succeed in American soccer a player must devote endless hours of playing time from the time he or she is a young child. Sokolove compared the American system to the European and suggested US players become worn out and coaches and trainers focus on shaping the best team and team players not the best individual. But I would also argue that the American system by design is classist. It doesn’t allow poor or even middle class children to compete successfully because their families are unable to commit the necessary amount of time to their child’s sport. In America soccer may not be for everyone.
It is the soccer system, not the players we have in the United States, that may be hampering our ability to produce world class soccer players and ultimately enthused fans.