by Akim Reinhardt
It has been exactly 20 years since the United States hosted a World Cup, and just as long since the debut of Major League Soccer (MLS), the nation's homegrown professional soccer league. Two decades later, American interest in the World Cup continues to grow. Beyond that, however, soccer remains a marginal product in the marketplace of U.S. spectator sports.
There are many obstacles to soccer becoming substantially more prominent in the U.S. marketplace beyond the World Cup. But I believe most of them can be overcome, and the key is better marketing.
Several factors are often cited as major roadblocks to soccer becoming a major spectator sport in the United States. Some of them are indeed daunting, but some are misunderstood and not as obstructionist as commonly perceived. Regardless, they can all be overcome to one degree or another. The key is understanding that soccer, like all spectator sports, is a cultural product. And cultural products demand relevant marketing.
Let me begin by briefly listing the perceived major obstacles to soccer's popularity as a spectator sport.
- The U.S. marketplace for spectator sports is already saturated.
- Soccer is low scoring and Americans hate low scoring sports.
- Most Americans don't really understand soccer.
- Americans are turned off by the dives, fake injuries, and histrionics
- Most Americans won't embrace soccer because they perceive it as “foreign.”
After briefly assessing each of these obstacles, I will make a case that they can be overcome with better marketing to American consumers.