In 2018, FIFA reported that roughly 1.1 billion people watched the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia. It became one of the most-watched sports matches in sports history and solidified soccer’s status as the world’s most popular sport. But despite the immense popularity of soccer, it has yet to find solid ground in the United States. According to Statista, soccer ranks fourth on America’s most popular sports list. The top three sports are American football, baseball, and basketball.
5 Reasons American Football is More Popular Than Soccer
The National Football League (NFL) is the most-watched, and even in the American betting industry, punters bet on NFL odds more. So the question remains, why has soccer failed to have the same impact on Americans? Why is American football more popular than soccer in the US? This article will bring you the answers to these questions.
Why American Football is More Popular Than Soccer in the United States
Roughly 91 million people watched the 2021 Super Bowl, making it one of America’s most-watched sporting events. No soccer match has come close to that record in the US.
Here are some reasons why the American public prefers American football to soccer.
1. The Sports Origins
One of the reasons sports events are so great is the togetherness they bring. They allow millions of countrymen to come together in support of their country. The closer the people feel to the sport, the more they love and support it. That’s the case with American football.
Soccer originated in the United Kingdom, and if you go there, it’s by far their most popular sport. The sport was created by their ancestors and passed down to them. That’s why they cherish it so much. On the other hand, American football was created in America, and the people feel closer to it than soccer. Foreigners brought in soccer, American football is in the blood of locals, and that’s why it’s more popular.
2. Americans Hate Ties
Americans have a very strong sports culture. They believe sports should be black or white. If two teams are facing off, a team should come out victorious and prove they’re better
That’s why most American sports have eliminated draws or ties in matches. Soccer is a sport where draws are pretty common. Statistics show that, on average, 14-20% of soccer games end in draws. But since the introduction of overtime in the NFL, hardly any draws are recorded.
3. Marketing and Business
Generally, soccer is a fast-paced game with two halves and a fifteen-minute break. Each half is 45 minutes long, and there are hardly any stoppages except for injury and the recent VAR checks.
The case is entirely different for American football. An average game lasts 3 hours and 24 minutes, but surprisingly, the game’s live-action only lasts 18 minutes. This is a massive improvement because The Wall Street Journal reported the figure to be 10 minutes in 2010. So if a game is over 200 minutes long and has a bare 20 minutes of action, what’s the rest of the time used for? The answer is timeouts and stoppages.
Dozens of companies use these stoppages and timeouts for advertising and marketing. This makes American football a very profitable sport. In 2022, it was reported that airing a 30-second long commercial during the Super Bowl cost a whopping $6.5 million.
There’s no allocation for such in soccer, and that’s why American football is still dominant in the US.
4. Higher Scoring
Americans love high-scoring sports. The three major sports in the USA -football, baseball, and basketball, are all games where the average game score doesn’t go below 20. Unlike soccer, the average goals per game regularly fall between the 1-3 range.
In soccer, players spend more time trying to score, and that’s why a typical soccer match can see players running around all game without actually scoring any goal.
To further prove America’s love for high-scoring games, the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final game that saw Germany thrash Brazil 7-1 is America’s most-watched World Cup semi-final game in history and ESPN’s most viewed non-American sporting event. So if soccer can start recording 7-10 goals per game, maybe the American audience will tune in to the games more.
5. More American Stars
Americans are very proud of themselves. They love seeing their compatriots on the big stage, representing the nation in its glory. Unfortunately for them, many Americans have failed to make it to the top in soccer. You can probably hand-count the popular American players in soccer’s top leagues.
Also, in American football, the pro leagues (like the NFL) are not the only leagues that draw attention. College football is also big in America, and the fans love to see youths rise from their roots to become stars. That’s not the case in soccer, many Americans struggle to become soccer stars, so there’s hardly anything for them to be proud of.
The Bottom Line
Even though the average American generally prefers football to soccer, both sports are still great and enjoyable.
Also, the MLS was the fifth most popular American sports league in 2018 but moved to the fourth position in late 2021, overtaking the Ice Hockey League (NHL). This is a solid sign that soccer is slowly gaining popularity in the US. Chelsea and American soccer star Christian Pulisic and other American soccer players are gradually changing the narratives.
However, despite these improvements, it’s important to say it will still take years for soccer or any other sport to break the dominance of American football in the United States.