Soccer in New York is surging, and its popularity across the United States continues to grow. The women’s national team garnered huge viewership numbers in the World Cup Final and the nation’s premier showcase of the sport domestically, the MLS, continues to post record viewership numbers.
In the 2019 MLS Final, which saw the Seattle Sounders face Toronto FC in their third meeting in four years to claim the Phillip F. Anschutz Trophy, ABC averaged 823,000 viewers – the best since the 964,000 that tuned in for the 2014 final.
While football has long been established as America’s favourite game, there are certainly some benefits that soccer fans enjoy over football fans, particularly those in New York. However, there is one key factor which is synonymous with football that soccer should seek to embrace to reach the next level of fan engagement.
More joy for New York soccer fans
Both New York-based men’s soccer teams are relatively young, with one being founded in 1994 and the other in 2013. However, both teams have experienced strong seasons and degrees of success in recent seasons.
The New York Red Bulls have finished at the top of the Eastern Conference in five of the last nine seasons, making it to the semi-finals of the MLS Playoffs thrice, the final of the US Open Cup once, and the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League in that time.
New York City FC has only been in operation since the 2015 season, and yet they’ve proven to be consistently successful. City have placed second in the overall standings twice and reached the Conference semi-finals in all three of their seasons.
They’re certainly on the ascendency, too, having won the conference and making it to the Open Cup quarter-finals to mark their deepest run in the competition.
For football fans in New York though, success has been very hard to come by. For Giants fans, one playoff appearance since winning the Super Bowl in 2011 was bad enough, but the team also threw away two of their best and most-liked players, Odell Beckham Jr and Olivier Vernon, in trades to the Cleveland Browns. This helped to see their record sink from 5-11 from 2018 to 4-12 in 2019.
New York Jets fans have experienced a similar playoffs drought and streak of losing seasons. However, things have been steadily building for the Jets, with the defense regularly ranking among the best in the league. In their first season under Adam Gase, the Jets pumped up to their best record in four years with seven wins and nine losses.
Football remains the more engaging sport
What truly makes a sports league great is how fans interact with each other and engage with the competition. Football stands as the leading example across the world of sport of how to maximize fan engagement and interactions through the simple games of fantasy sports.
Fans of the sport – and even people who aren’t fans of the sport – join free fantasy leagues which demand that players pay attention to the sport if they’re to be successful. It upgrades the level of immersion for fans as well as gets other people involved through the fantasy competition.
Then, there’s also the ever-popular platform of daily fantasy sports, which offer larger and larger guaranteed prize pools each year. From head-to-heads to huge multiplayer tournaments, people are encouraged to follow the sport and learn the ins and outs in order to succeed in the multi-million dollar scene of daily fantasy sports.
While soccer and the MLS also have similar free fantasy football leagues and DFS options, they haven’t perfected the formula as football and the NFL have over the years. It’s likely down to the format for the sport itself and the ability to analyse units as opposed to free-flowing play, but fantasy soccer simply can’t match the effect that fantasy football has on its players.
New York sports fans are spoiled for choice, especially when you include the likes of the Rangers, Islanders, Yankees, Mets, and Knicks, and while soccer fans are enjoying success on the pitch, football fans get a more engaging experience with the league thanks to the tailor-made fantasy football offers.