The conventional belief holds that soccer is the most popular sport everywhere in the world except the United States, yet:
The United States appears to be the second largest soccer market in the world, and is poised to take over the #1 slot.
No one is suggesting that soccer is the most popular sport in the United States. Other countries display a great love of football that is beyond quantification.
But when it comes to things that CAN be quantified, the U.S. looks like either the biggest soccer market on earth, or a close second to Germany.
WORLD CUP BROADCASTS: U.S. broadcasters paid $425 million for the rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cup. Comparable figures for German domestic broadcasts for 2010 and 2014 are elusive, but we do know that the German public TV consortium paid about $234 million for the 2006 World Cup rights. Assuming the German rights fees didn’t go down for 2010 and 2014, that probably places them in the lead, well ahead of the French ($152 million for the 2010 games), the next most affluent nation in Europe (Europe – as a region – gives FIFA the most revenue (by far) from broadcasting rights). Compare this to, say, the $40 million spent for World Cup 2010 broadcast rights in India.
But now FOX and Telemundo stepped up the U.S. offer for 2018 and 2022 to $1 billion. The German deal is reported to be $267 million for 2018. Barring some astonishing development, come 2015 (when the 2018-22 payments start), the U.S. will be the global leader in World Cup broadcast rights fees.
WORLD CUP TICKETS: In 2010 “Americans purchased more tickets to the World Cup in South Africa than any other nation outside of the host nation.” Then it happened again in 2014 – Americans purchased more tickets to the World Cup in Brazil than any other nation outside the host nation.
FIFA REGISTERED SOCCER PLAYERS: Even U.S. soccer “paid” participation rates are among the highest. Though FIFA’s general soccer participation estimates are unreliable, the closest thing to a hard number for soccer players per country is the “registered players” category. These are youth and adults on teams in established leagues. These leagues charge a fee, supply uniforms, pay insurance, have staff, etc. The United States ranks second in the world in the number of registered players, behind Germany, of course.
Why the misunderstanding about the comparative size of the U.S. soccer market? Perhaps, in part, commentators have not noticed how many of our fellow Americans are hispanic. Hispanic Americans now number about 52 million. On their own, they would qualify as the second largest Spanish speaking nation in the world (behind Mexico) and would be – by far – the most affluent hispanic nation on earth. And, in case you didn’t know, hispanic Americans tend to be big soccer fans.