If you would have told me when I was 20 years old that in my 30s and 40s I would be spending a significant amount of my time on a soccer field I would have assumed that the Communists had finally taken over America. Back then, I was ignorant about soccer. I thought the game was only for Communists and really, really rich boys with first names like Fuller or Sherbet.
But over time, I fell in love with the game.
I’m not alone.
Baseball was once America’s pastime. Soccer is the world’s pastime. And before you write soccer off as the metric system of sports—something the world loves but America has no time for—think again. The American sports landscape is quickly changing.
If you don’t believe me, just follow the money.
FC Barcelona, a soccer team in Spain, has just become the first team to ever surpass $1 billion in revenue. Read that again. Not the Yankees. Not the Cowboys. Not the Lakers.
But again, this is not simply a European phenomenon. Take my state of Georgia for an example. Football rules the day here. The Georgia Bulldogs average attendance for home games is over 90 thousand. The Atlanta Falcons average around 72 thousand. From there, the so-called big three sports begin to taper off. The Braves average around 31 thousand and the Hawks 14 thousand.
But then there’s Atlanta United, of Major League Soccer.
They have an average home game attendance of 52,273. They’ve had as many as 72 thousand at a game.
Expect these numbers to keep trending toward soccer. And while there is the potential for more growth in baseball and basketball, don’t expect football to keep ruling the day, even in hotbed states like Georgia.
More and more parents are keeping their kids out of football because of the fear of concussions. To be fair, you can get a concussion doing just about anything, even soccer. Football just seems to have the market cornered on head injuries at the moment. Much of that is due to the fact that kids are getting bigger and faster and, despite the best efforts of NFL referees, still requires hitting and tackling. Call it what you want but that’s enough to make a lot of parents walk right on by the football registration tent and head on over to the soccer one.
One man in a small, rural, southern town told me that when he took his kid to football practice, he couldn’t believe how many more kids were there for soccer than football. Imagine the scene in places like San Diego or Miami.
The times are changing and so is the landscape of our sporting culture.
I love football. But I love soccer too. You’re allowed to like both.
My aim is not to pull you away from the great sport of football.
It’s simply to show you that there’s another one out there and a lot of people are watching it, playing it, and spending money on it.
Yes, even in America.
When it’s played right, soccer is a beautiful game. And it promises to only get better when tomorrow’s Julio Jones and Todd Gurley walk past the football registration tent and give soccer a try.