Irrespective of the name, for the first time ever, the Copa America international soccer tournament will be played in the US and it coincides with soccer being the number 2 sport here for kids ages 12 to 24 year olds.
Soccer still lags behind America’s four leading sports: baseball, basketball, hockey and American football but is growing among Gen Y and Zers.
The Economist reports:
Much of the hard running took place in the 1990s, when the successful hosting of the World Cup coincided with a surge of young players and the formation of Major League Soccer (MLS). According to a poll for ESPN, soccer has become the second-most popular sport for 12-24 year olds, after American football, and is the standout leader among Hispanics of the same age.
Last year soccer-playing among boys in high school grew more than any other sport, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (perhaps capitalising on fears over the safety of American football, where numbers fell).
The success of the national teams, in particular the women’s side, has been a boon. Last year, the Women’s World Cup final attracted a domestic TV audience of 27m—roughly the same as the record-setting college American football championship game in 2015.
Until recently, the challenge had been to keep people interested between
World Cups. A rise in the number of games from other countries that are broadcast live has helped.
According to Stephen Master of Nielsen, which measures such things, there is now more live soccer available on American TV than in any other country.
Partly as a result, average attendances at MLS games have grown by 56% since 2001. In the past five years they have risen 29%. More people go to MLS games than go to an NBA games or National Hockey League ones (though both basketball and hockey are played in smaller stadiums with higher ticket prices).
When it comes to revenue, soccer is still a minnow: MLS generates just half the revenue of Japanese baseball and a tenth of what the NBA does.