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Friday, July 12, 2024

Soccer Kicking Hockey, Baseball for U.S. Popularity

  • Soccer is challenging hockey as the fourth most popular sport in the U.S.
  • The sport could take another leap in 2026 with the FIFA World Cup coming to the U.S.
Major-League-Soccer
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Premier League’s U.S. broadcast rights deal with Comcast, which begins this year, more than doubled the value of its previous contract. The U.K. league will rake in $2.7 billion over six years, compared to $1.1 billion for the last six-year period.

It’s yet another reminder of soccer’s skyrocketing popularity in the U.S. It may already be the fourth-most popular sport in the U.S. — and could surpass baseball in third later this decade.

The world’s most popular sport has historically been slow to catch on in the U.S., but that has changed in recent years. 

  • A survey by Ampere Analysis from the fourth quarter of 2021 found that 49% of U.S. sports fans like soccer, compared to 37% who like hockey. Baseball came in at 57%.
  • In 2020, 17.8 million Americans played soccer, compared to 2.3 million who played ice hockey, according to the Sport and Fitness Association.
  • That same trend held among U.S. kids aged 13-17: 1.2 million played soccer regularly in 2020, compared to 243,000 who played ice hockey.

World Cup Coming Up

With a FIFA World Cup scheduled for later this year and the global tournament coming to the U.S. in 2026, soccer is poised for more growth.

Houston Dynamo and Dash owner Ted Segal told Front Office Sports last August that he foresees a “step change in enthusiasm [for U.S. soccer] that accrues to the benefit of MLS and NWSL,” resulting from the 2026 World Cup.

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