Published date: May 28, 2019
Soccer is a game loved and enjoyed by people of all genders and races. It is inarguably the most popular sport in the world. Do you find that hard to believe? The statistics are there to prove it. According to a survey, there are over 250 million registered soccer players worldwide who play soccer, while there are around 4 billion soccer fans. This is more than half the world’s population. In the last century, soccer has gained the attention of the global audience, uniting people from all over the world along the way.
Today, soccer is a game played and enjoyed by people of all genders. This wasn’t always so. This article will show how soccer evolved from being a sport played by only males into one played and enjoyed by all genders. We will also see how soccer expanded to all parts of the world, winning the hearts of many, Americans included. You’ll be surprised to see how much Americans love soccer.
The 4 billion soccer fans worldwide are enough evidence that soccer is the most popular sport globally. This is one reason it is referred to as the King of Sports. With 2.5 billion fans, cricket comes second place. However, this data is skewed because India, whose national sport is cricket, has a population of over one billion people. Statistics show that football is popular in twice as many countries as cricket is. It’s safe to say that soccer is way ahead of cricket in terms of global appeal.
According to statistics, there are 250 million registered soccer players worldwide. This again puts soccer in first place as the most popular participation sport globally. Close behind it is badminton, with 220 million registered players. Field hockey comes third place with 1.64 million players.
Today, women play and enjoy soccer games as much as they are played and enjoyed by men. The game is played by both boys and girls too. However, this was not always so. Soccer originated in England in the 12th century and was dominated by males. As the game gained popularity in the UK, it became apparent that it was a male-only sport. Spectators then were mainly men of the working class.
To accommodate the schedule of these men, soccer matches were usually fixed for Saturdays. And because some men had to work on Saturday mornings, the kick-off time for soccer matches was set to 3 pm. Men working on Saturdays were usually done working by lunchtime. This gave them enough time to get to the stadium before the 3 pm kick-off.
Soccer originated in the UK and has enormous popularity there. The early version of soccer did not evolve into modern soccer until the 19th century, and the first soccer club was founded in 1857. In 1904, FIFA was founded to oversee international soccer competitions among national associations of some European countries. It wasn’t until 1908 that soccer was included in the Olympics Games. Soccer gained more popularity, and in 1930, the first World Cup was held. It was only proper that it was held in Uruguay, as soccer became more popular in South America. Soccer spread its wings to Africa, and by the next World Cup, Egypt became the first African country to join the game.
For decades, soccer was dominated by European, North American, and South American countries. But this turned around in the 1980s. When FIFA increased the number of qualified professional teams, they reduced the number allocated to Europe. This significantly turned the tides, encouraging more countries outside Europe, North America, and South America to participate.
As this simple game steadily spread across the globe, the love for the game grew. There are national leagues in every country. And because these games are televised, some of these leagues have more fans outside their country. The English Premier League, for example, is the most-watched soccer league and is televised in more than 200 countries. In the course of a game season, the total global audience is more than 2 billion viewers.
Although the USA competed in the first World Cup in Uruguay, the game of soccer has not grown to the extent of being the most popular sport in America. That position is still occupied by American football. Since it was invented in 1920, American football has remained the number one sport in America, and even soccer is having a hard time displacing it.
The 1950s and 1960s in the USA saw soccer pretty much neglected. It didn’t come alive until the 1970s, when some high-profile soccer players from around the world joined the North American Soccer League. To see elite soccer players like Pele and George Best, Americans came in tens of thousands to watch, reviving the soccer spirit in America. This revival was short-lived when in 1984, the North American Soccer League was disbanded.
In 1994, the USA hosted the World Cup, and to do this, it had to re-establish its soccer league. Following the highly successful World Cup, soccer remains popular today, with some Major League Soccer teams drawing over 40 thousand soccer fans per match. In recent years, the MLS has attracted professional players like Thierry Henry, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, and others.
The United States has not only attracted foreign players, but great American stars have also gone overseas. More than 30 American players are playing for some of the biggest soccer leagues worldwide. In 2019, Christian Pusilic, popularly called Captain America by soccer fans in America, was bought by Chelsea for $73 million. The fee was more than three times the amount spent on John Brooks, who held the record for the most expensive American soccer player purchased in 2017. This is considered a great milestone in American soccer and one that will keep more Americans watching the game.
The national female soccer team has helped boost the traction soccer gets in the USA. The Women’s World Cup is unarguably the biggest event in women’s soccer. And having won the World Cup in 1991, 1999, 2015, and 2019, the team is a significant reason more people, including young girls, are interested in soccer. In 2019, the Women’s World Cup final had nearly 20 million views making it the most viewed match on English Television in the USA since the previous Women’s World Cup final. That’s a high number for a country that isn’t as much into Association Football compared to other American sports like Rugby football, and basketball.
As the number of soccer fans increases in the USA, the number of soccer players is also increasing. Soccer is one of the most inexpensive sports in the world. All you need is a soccer ball and a field area. Some might even substitute soccer balls with plastic bottles or cans of soda.
At the high school level, soccer is the number one team sport, and it’s one of the most popular sports played by children. As the popularity of competitive soccer increases, more American kids are considering a soccer career and are dreaming of being international soccer stars.