It is widely regarded that the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League are the four major professional sports leagues in this country. Sure, there is a major professional soccer league, but that league has yet to reach the vast popularity as say the NFL, NBA or MLB. One has to wonder if that will be changing anytime soon.
Being a rather huge fan of professional sports in this country, I have struggled to understand why professional soccer has not taken off in this country. Soccer is a very popular sport among youth in this country; drive by any soccer field on a warm summer night and chances are that you will see several games in progress or teams practicing their skills. The number of kids playing soccer is very comparable to the number of kids playing baseball. You would think that a sport with such a heavy participation rate as soccer would translate into a very popular professional sports league. Last Sunday’s women’s World Cup championship match drew some very high television numbers even above many World Series games. There is no question that soccer has the potential to become a huge sport in this country, especially at the professional level. however, how many years have we been saying that?
Personally, I believe the whole key for professional soccer to really take off in this country is for some major network to sign a big television deal with the professional league. Perhaps a network such as NBC can have a game of the week every Saturday night. That would give the league some much-needed exposure on a major network. The players also need to be marketed similar to the NBA. In order for the league to take off, more high-profile players like David Beckham will have to develop. It is simply not enough to just have a bunch of games on television without any superstar players. It is a well-known fact in team sports that fans tune in to see some superstar player, not necessarily some team. I cannot honestly name one player in professional soccer. The only way that will change is if their players get far more exposure and coverage.
Just maybe the success of the women’s world cup team can be a springboard to having a successful women’s professional league. Who knows? Imagine if the national men’s team ever won the world cup? That would be huge in giving the MLS a much-needed shot in the arm. I know in some of my past blogs that I have been critical of soccer, but this sports fan will tune in if I am entertained. I can definitely see soccer becoming more popular at the professional level in the next 20 years. It is bound to happen. A typical game is only 2 hours max compared to a 3 plus hour baseball game or a 3 hour football game. I believe the next younger generation of people can appreciate that. I strongly believe that major league soccer is an explosion just waiting to happen. In my opinion, it will be a major professional sport in this country in the next 10 years. Soon, the names of superstar professional soccer players will be just as well know to the American sports fans as names like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning or Bryce Harper. In the meantime, I will work on trying to name at least 5 professional soccer players in the MLS.