Why Football Fails in America, or So They Would Have Us Think

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(Author note: I prefer the term football over soccer, but when comparing American football and European football the terminology can be confusing in context, so for this article I will refer to European football as soccer.)

The World says America does not understand the “Beautiful Game.”  American athletic polls insist the sport is growing, but the soccer world keeps saying, “When?”  Well I will tell you when, as soon as the media and corporations let you know the sport is already flourishing.  Bottom line American financial interests stands to lose too much of your money if soccer grows in the United States.

How you say does America lose money at soccer’s success?  Lets us a ponder a fictional random match up of the NFL.

When the New England Patriots travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys, or any team for that matter a team, coaches trainers, and staff board planes to fly across the Country.  This make the airlines money.  If it is chartered it still makes airports, crew and manufacturers money.
When Liverpool travels to London to play Arsenal the US makes no money, well maybe a tiny bit if they provided some sort of sale of the transportation, but that is minuscule.

When the Patriots play in Dallas 100,000 people pay money and taxes to enter the stadium and buy shirts, hot dogs, beer and pretzels.  Then toss in some hotels for traveling fans, limos, security personnel for the players, and the media.  America is making tons of money. And don’t forget who built that 1.3 billion dollar tax cow they are piled into, American unions.

When 45,000 people cram into Anfield to play Manchester City the US probably makes a few bucks flying some tourists to the game.  American dollar is very sad that profit is in someone elses pocket.

When the Patriots play in Dallas on Monday night all kinds of people make money on advertising, tv rights, radio rights, newspaper and magazine sales, satellite and cable tv subscriptions, NFL TV subscriptions, you name it every medium makes wheelbarrells of money here.  The dollar is raining from the sky when football is on tv, and not only in America we sell it around the world.

When Liverpool plays Newcastle a few people do make money in America.  The satellite and cable companies have their respective soccer channels, and the matches do sell advertising to companies.  But the outlets also pay the Premier League for the rights to air these games, so while there is money being made, a percentage of that is also money going out for the opportunity to make profit.

When the NFL airs the Superbowl the entire Country tries to make a fortune.  Advertising is crazy, the tie-ins for food, featured soft drinks, official beers, prefer chips, clothing, stupid commemorative coins and books, and even the local Chinese restaurant is thrilled to deliver as late as you will keep calling.and giving them your credit card number.

When Liverpool played in Istanbul the US probably profited only from the sale of branded US manufactured Adidas wear.

And that brings me to my final point, the only companies with US interest making any money in European soccer leagues are companies like Adidas and Puma who do push the product to Americans, it is the media and corporations who have you believe it is a “boring” or “uneventful” sport and overshadow the truth.

Perfect case and point and proof soccer is growing in America.  Regardless of how you feel about the MLS it does very well in the US, but judging by non-soccer media it appears to do depressingly horrible.  Did you know Seattle continues to average 36,000 fans a game?  Do you realize in America only the NFL draws more average fans than 36k?  And across the world only the Bundesliga draws more average fans than 36k regular fans.  Now this is not an entirely fair assessment due to stadium size and poor teams with bad draw, but it does show that a MLS team can perform better then average attendance rates of major sporting leagues.  But if you want raw numbers, no NHL or NBA team drew 36,000 in fact they can’t, the stadiums are to small, but if we are just talking draw how can you not say they are performing to a high standard when the Boston Celtics draw 23,000 sell outs and they say it is impressive.  A sport that can by size outdraw the MLS is Major League Baseball, but in reality only 10 of the 30 teams (33%) drew more than the top drawing MLS team.  Want more, the MLS continues to grow every year not only adding teams, but fans.  Only 3 teams saw a decrease in 2010 in fan attendance, while 3 teams also saw 10% fan growth with the NY Red Bulls drawing 47% increase in fan attendance.

If the MLS is doing so well then why hide it? Why do they want still want soccer to fail?

Because if MLS does well, then fans naturally will progress to the EPL, SerieA, La Liga, etc. America can not afford to allow the EPL to creep in on the market corner of the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and NASCAR.  The major sports of America are such a financier of big buildings around the country, tax incentives, tourism, merchandise sale and salaries for thousands of workers why would they want a sport from another country coming in and dipping into their profit share.

The simple sad truth is that it comes down to money.  I see people at the bars, I see the jerseys, hell when America hosted the World Cup in 1994 they would had you believe there was nothing better, but when the profits go overseas, you might as well be asking for a pardon on election day.

Soccer is growing in America, but this is a grassroots movement by fans introducing new fans.  Next time you see that fan in a Red Bulls jersey, don’t heckle him for liking the MLS, nod your head.  Approach them and talk about the upcoming match against your home city, or ask them who they like in “your league.”  Talking about soccer in America is the best way to draw people into the conversation and drawing them into watching the next match.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Jamie Canu

Follow me on Twitter @ObiWanCanubi

Liverpool, NE Revolution & Roma Supporter



  1. You forgot to mention advertising. US sports are played in short snappy quarters with adverts between them. Football has long halfs. 1 set of adverts rather than 3.

  2. Makes logical sense to some degree. Why does it matter what the media think about Football in America? Who cares if it’s popular or not? What about football in Belize? Is it popular there?

  3. There just arrogant,THE rest of THE world loves it,but they think noo Lets be different,american sports are just plain boring,no atmosphere,no momentum

  4. there is a point there i suppose, worth considering….
    just 1 thing tho, Liverpool, NE Revolution, AND Roma??? ive never understood how people have enough room in their heart to ‘support’ more than one club…

  5. I was offended at first when I read Cory’s comment…but he’s right. I grew up in NY supporting the Mets, Buffalo Bills, LA Lakers and Buffalo Sabres. About ten years ago I grew tired of the constant advertising and complete lack of loyalty and heart from the players. I was flipping through the channels one day and came across a Liverpool game at Anfield. I, like most Americans, thought soccer was “gay”…before that day. Today I check my smart phone about every 30 minutes to see the updates and latest news for LFC. I couldn’t imagine my life without Liverpool Football Club. (I’m watching the Academy play MU as we speak online and woke up at 6 am to do so!)

    Back to my original statement, Americans can be arrogant and quick to assume. I was one of them but now I spend my days trying to convert my friends and family into “soccer” fans. One of my best friends is now a big Arsenal supporter. (I try to steer people away from Man U and Chelsea, but don’t push Liverpool on them!)

    Oh well, back to watching the Academy…LFC up 2-0 against the Scum! They are completely owning MU and it’s making my day.

  6. good article really dead on. im 22 and around my age group soccer is definitely becoming a popular sport here in the states. sonofshanks. are you talking about the owners? or the fans? cause first of all, NESV only owns LFC and hide interest in Roma which is still up in the air, they are in no way affiliated with the revolution. as far as fans go im sure most to all on this site support LFC and no roma fans. I dont really follow the mls since i see the EPL as the top class of football leagues. but is it bad if someone supports LFC and a mls team? i dont see any harm in it.

  7. Thanks for writing this, it’s dead on. Nice to see MLS get some respect. Obviously it’s not elite, but we’ve only had a top flight for the last 15 years (compared to the histories of European and South American football dating back to the 1800s), and we’re just now realizing our youth development system was hampering our progress as we transition to the use of club academies. Our future looks bright. Again, thanks from a US-based Everton supporter (yeah, yeah, I know this is a Liverpool site :P) and a guy hoping he’ll get to see the Cosmos play in MLS one day (fuck rooting for an energy drink).

  8. DId you know if you had a stop clock and turned it on when the quarterback says “hike” and turned it off when the referees blow the whistle. A 3 hour game comes down to only 15 minutes of play. Try it. Its sad!!!

  9. Your argument is a little too simplistic I feel. To assume that “soccer” is a substitute good for NFL I think would be incorrect in the most part (which seems to be the basis for this article, assuming that people will swap out NFL for spending on “soccer”). I do not have the benefit of first hand experience of being in the US and following any of their major sports especially closely, but I do tend to watch the Super Bowl whenever it is on. I would however say that these two sports are no substitutes for one another and behave like normal goods, whereby demand will not necessarily be substituted from NFL to “soccer”.

    This would therefore do away with the theory that the US media has an agenda against “soccer”, and would instead point toward another point of causation for the lack of coverage. I would put this down to a time lag in the media picking up growing trends, although I suspect (haven’t checked any stats) that coverage of “soccer” games is becoming more accessible in the US due to TV stations realising that there is a market for covering “soccer” games. It is instead mainstream media such as newspapers where I suspect the problem lies. News print media is operating under a large degree of competition and is therefore operating under increasingly smaller profit margins. As such, to cover “soccer” games in print would increase costs associated with printing and research and thus is not perceived to be economically viable. However, this will inevitably change what with the switch from printed media to online media especially due to the increased use of tablets (ipad for example). The costs of including “soccer” coverage in this media form is small, and with growing demand for this coverage it can aid media in product differentiation and thus increase sales. As such the coverage should increase. This will further spread through the other forms of media when they see the increased benefits and should become common place with sustained demand.

    In conclusion I would argue that it is not a bias against “soccer” by the media due to perceived loss of revenue to other US companies; after all, economic theory would suggest with an insurgence of demand for “soccer” new revenue streams will be created for the US to benefit from due to new streams of revenue which can be exploited. Combine this with the fact that there is unlikely to be a large drop in demand for NFL that can not be more than compensated for by this new source of revenue, and it would appear to be in the US’s interest. Instead it is the mainstream media sources who do not perceive the benefits of covering “soccer” to outweigh the costs of doing so.

  10. This article is a complete mess. Who are “they” that wants to see football/soccer fail? Financial interests are interested in making money. Making money is color blind and activity blind. It’s bad business to ignore opportunities to make money from new revenue streams.

    There is a massive cultural ignorance/bias regarding football in the US, but that is changing daily. There are already millions of fans and players of the beautiful game in the US.

    The one thing that the US may be guilty of is disregarding activity in the lower level/talent leagues in favor of chasing the cream of the crop. Since top notch football doesn’t exist here on a massive scale (yet) as the MLS gains traction, football activity will be much more visible in the general consciousness. ESPN frequently includes MLS and EPL highlights daily in their news reports. MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA took many decades to take root in the daily consciousness. The fact there are 15-20 stable MLS franchises in the US only 20 years into their existence is a massive accomplishment but its only the beginning. Once the level of play improves vs. the rest of the world things will be even stronger as the US marketing machine is second to none.

    Nobody that I know wants football to fail. They may not know the intricacies of the game, may not like the pacing of the game itself and may not think there is enough action but calling it a failure isn’t even part of the conversation. There is no great conspiracy why the NHL (or NASCAR) isn’t more popular. Millions love it-same as football but in some US areas, they cannot identify with it and make other choices with their time. There are many fans in the US that love various levels of football/soccer…there is no failure there. Perhaps the US football market just needs time and patience to develop as opposed to evaluating it versus the worldwide football model that operates in a much different timeline and without the other professional leagues that the US supports.

  11. It is sad Mauricio. What’s even more sad is the number of fans of the NFL who don’t recognize they’re being fed over 2 hours of commercials. I haven’t watched a game other than the Super Bowl in 3 years. My Sundays are much happier without that crap!

  12. Off topic a bit…I was watching a really old clip, perhaps even black and white, 40-50 plus years old and the british announcers kept calling it “soccer”?! This threw me off but they never once referred to it as football. I don’t recall if it was a WC game or english league but it was perhaps the oldest clip of soccer I have seen…had that old school, tinny sound with the quintessential announcers play-by-play. So, my question is, why did Brits at one point clearly call it soccer (probably before it was ever seen in America) yet now we ascribe the term soccer to Americans? This threw me wayyy off!

    Soccer will be big here there is no question and it is only a matter of time. Broadcasters and advertisers see the writing on the wall and will definetely want their share of the spoils. We are now 1/5 hispanic (huge contributing factor but not only one) and growing and it is inevitable…I have seen the growth since I started playing at 33 years ago and I am loving every second of it. Mark my words

  13. Yawn. This post is just another reason why I only come to EOTK for the Daily Antoine. Pretentious and weak are the best words to describe this and most other posts here. And stop hating on other sports like the NFL. Don’t look now, but your inferiority complex is showing. Live and let live.

    – Ryan

    Supporter of non-shitty blog entries

  14. I agree with some of this post, but I think one thing everyone is forgetting is the lack of attention span of the average American. The NFL is kind of based on this. The plays are quick, exciting(sometimes) and usually has somebody getting run over by a 280ln linebacker. With soccer games you can go 90 minutes and not see a goal, which is just not enough to keep their attention. I have been trying to show my friends soccer and they definitely enjoy some games when its high scoring, but I can see them struggle to get through a game thats an ugly defensive battle. Thats just what I have seen and experienced throughout my life as a soccer fan in the US.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love getting to a bar or watching the NFL on Sundays, it really does have a lot of excitement especially in the late games. Now whether that is partially influenced by the financial institutions or not, I do not think they are terribly worried about the EPL taking over the NFL

  15. May I point out that other sports play two or three times as many games in a season (when you can sub people whenever you can do that) and therefore don’t need big ass stadiums? Basketball and hockey usually have 15-25k people per game. Hockey has *82* regular season games and THEN the playoffs, which are seven game series (to all the non yanks on here, this is common in baseball and basketball too). So I don’t know if the “Seattle gets 36k people per game” argument is a fair one.

    I think the biggest problem is the lack of commercial support. A 15 minute halftime just doesn’t cut it to american advertising, and most fans wouldn’t bother buying a “sky sports” style package to watch American football (plus with a weaker pub culture, we watch more sports at home than in bars).

    I still think it is slowly catching on, everyone plays the game as a kid these days and so unlike our parents we can at least appreciate it (funny thing, I realized the other day that when I was 8 we wore red adidas kits!!).

    Don’t forget that in a few decades the US will be over 50% hispanic. If that won’t do it, I don’t know what will.

  16. Grate post and for some one like me looking in from the outside it make’s sens vary Intreating to read thank you

  17. I’m american but my dad was from England. I’ll say the US corporate machine will go wherever there’s money to be made, and in sport right now the big 4 north american sports rule. Those are the sports what people grew up with their parents watching, so that’s what the kids watch. It’s the culture here.

    Soccer is the newcomer that’s 80 years behind, the dads don’t understand it so to them it’s boring. As more and more kids grow playing soccer and supporting teams they will become fans when they are parents, and they will enjoy it because they understand the game. Soccer will be growing but it willtake years, baseball will decline because it’s participation is dropping.

    There’s huge money in “soccer”. As the economy becomes more global and the EPL is the premium brand. Why are rich foreigners so interested in owning an EPL team? Because they are going to be huge global brands with 10x the revenue of a US pro sport franchise

  18. I’d like to add as far as total season attendance numbers go, baseball is king due the number of games in a season, it dwarfs all other sports worldwide (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sports_attendance_figures). Then comes basketball, then NFL football, plus those leagues have more teams.

    So yes my local MLS team (Seattle) is averaging an impressive 36k and out draws the Mariners (baseball) per game, the rest of the league has a ways to go

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