Bold statement, huh? Before you argue, hear me out.
Soccer is the most popular game around the world, with the exception of the United States. In 2018, 3.5 billion (yes, billion) people watched France defeat Croatia to be crowned World Cup Champions. In comparison, 100.7 million people watched the Chiefs beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl.
The numbers don’t lie. Soccer is the world’s game.
Don’t get me wrong, I love American football. I prefer my Saturdays to Sundays in the fall but, I am sure to follow along with the NFL schedule.
While the NFL has grown exponentially in the last two decades, there are questions of continued growth in the distance. Here are four reasons MLS will be bigger than the NFL by 2040:
The Further Deterioration of American Football
This is a grassroots issue.
Parents are more and more hesitant to enroll their kids in tackle football due to the high risk of injury associated with the game. Rightfully so, rec leagues are moving to an emphasis of a ‘flag’ football approach where the rules and concepts of the game are taught, and injury is limited. But, this does not translate to the NFL.
Contrary, with soccer, the game children play at all levels is the game the pros play. With it’s simple rules, limited need for equipment and relatively low injury rate compared to other sports, soccer participation in the US is growing.
This is translating to MLS. Attendance is at a record high for the league. With strategic expansions into untapped markets, MLS is poised to become the country’s favorite sport.
League Expansion in Non-Traditional Markets
I applaud MLS on it’s expansion efforts. With cities like Austin, TX, Cincinnati, OH and Nashville, TN, the league is striking a balance on bringing soccer to new and existing regions of interest.
Other cities excluded by the NFL include: Portland, OR, Orlando, FL, Salt Lake City, UT and Columbus, OH, all with strong MLS franchises poised to expand.
While my argument is being made for the US, our neighbors to the north are getting in on the beautiful game with franchises in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. This will only help grow the league.
The newer franchises are building soccer-specific stadiums that have smaller capacities but allow for a more intimate connection to the game for fans. Portland’s Providence Park is a perfect example of this. Located close to downtown, the Timbers regularly have the best attendance numbers in the league.
I am excited for the new stadiums that Nashville and Austin are planning to open by next season.
A soccer game lasts 90 minutes (not including stoppage time). You know exactly what you are getting yourself into. Halftime runs fifteen minutes.
In my opinion, that is the beauty of soccer- two uninterupted forty five minute halves of action.
You don’t get that with the NFL.
Example of NFL Presentation: Opening kick-off. Commercials. Three and out. Punt. Commercials. Other team goes three and out. Punt. Followed by commercials.
The average play in football lasts six seconds. Yes, your are one play away from an exciting event but, that is if you haven’t changed the channel or looked down at your phone.
Soccer demands your undivided attention, forty five minutes at a time. With future generations suffering from shorter and shorter attention spans, soccer may just be the answer.
Europe’s Biggest Stars Come to MLS
With names like Beckham, Ibrahimovic, Rooney and Kaka having come across the Atlantic to see MLS for themselves, you know the league is headed in the right direction.
While these stars were closer to the end of their careers, they could have stayed in Europe and still made good money while having a shot at Champions League glory. This tells you what European stars think of MLS. It is even rumored that Cristiano Ronaldo has interest in joining a MLS club.
I don’t think the NFL is going anywhere, anytime soon but, you do have to recognize that there are issues with the game that could mean trouble for the league in the future. I think this will give soccer the opening it needs to become a more popular sport in the US. If MLS continues to make strides, the game has a bright future.