Polls of last season indicate a fan growth in Major League Soccer (MLS), ranking it the 3rd most attended sports league in the United States.
With a record setting average of 17,872 spectators per game in the 2011 season, the MLS surpassed both the NHL and NBA in attendance.
Soccer, or football, has taken pride in being recognized as the world’s most popular sport. However, I as a citizen know that nothing football related can be great in the US unless one adds pads, excess rules, an hour and a half of game time, throws the ball, and labels it, ‘American.’
Having not gone a season without football (soccer) since age 3, I have recognized a majority of Americans grant this sport simply as a way to keep the kids occupied until more serious life decisions are in order.
Europe had been hosting the most dominant professional football clubs for nearly a hundred years before we Americans realized it was something we weren’t the best at. In the 1990s, England revised their top-flight system to become the most popular league in the world, now recognized as the Barclay’s Premier League.
It was probably part inspiration part jealousy that the USA soon after established their equivalent with the MLS in an act to land the 1994 World Cup in the USA. What better way to prove your worth in the football world than to host FIFA World Cup?
In its 1996 inaugural season, attendance revealed an average of 17,406, which remained the record until last year.
It admittedly has not been the most glamorous 16 seasons, but with renovations and recruits over the years, the status has been on an overall incline. The MLS recently began to interact with the European game more by adding clubs to the league, blatantly modeling our names after the greats (Ex. Real Salt Lake after Real Madrid), and sending our best players overseas to play amongst them. In return, the MLS has been proud to act as a retirement home for expiring players such as Thierry Henry and more famously David Beckham, the most noteworthy British Invasion since the Beatles.
Seattle Sounders FC contributed the most to the record-setting attendance, averaging 38,496. The MLS average itself (17,872) passed those of the NHL (17,132) and NBA (17,323). Of course we cannot read too far into the data, as the MLS is held to a 34-game schedule, and total ticket sales were thus significantly less. Facing the facts however, football, or soccer, is growing in the US.