The Reason Soccer Is So Popular (Except in the US)

post title over image of soccer crowd

There is no doubt that soccer is the most popular sport in the entire world. The recent World Cup that Russia hosted boasted a viewership of over 4 billion people. Half of the world’s population tuned in for these soccer games. Soccer evokes tremendous passion and fans following, but let me explain why it’s so popular.

Soccer is so popular because it is accessible for anyone. Everyone can play soccer regardless of age, ability, or economic situation. This lack of barrier to entry allowed the sport to quickly spread around the world and become the most popular sport in the world today. 

As with many areas of life, there are several reasons why soccer is so popular. I’ve listed the eleven reasons below. But despite the worldwide popularity of soccer, it’s also true that soccer is less prevalent in the US than in the rest of the world. In this article, I’ll explain the exact reason for this.

Let’s check it out!

The 11 Reasons Soccer Is So Popular

1. Soccer Has Little to No Economic Barriers

Soccer is fundamentally different from other sports like basketball, baseball, rugby, and more. Other sports require basic infrastructure.

For instance, you need a lot of materials and expertise to construct a basketball court. The same goes for a baseball ground. However, to play soccer, you just need a ball and an open field. 

You don’t even need to worry about metal goalposts. A pair of random objects on either side of the field can act as goalposts.

If you live in a part of the world where things are tough, you and friends from the neighborhood can pool their money to buy a soccer ball. There’s no need to worry if you are short on cash. Any object with a similar size and a bit of bounce can qualify as a soccer ball. Plastic bottles, soda cans, tetra packs, you name it.

You can also ditch the sneakers and play in your sandals or barefooted. The possibilities are endless, and there is no economic barrier that prevents you from enjoying the sport. 

2. Any Place Can Become a Soccer Field

The beauty of soccer lies in its versatility.

You don’t need a designated soccer field or open grassy plain to play the sport. You can play it on a turf field at the beach or anywhere else. Alleyways and closed-off streets can become your playing field.

soccer field
Soccer field

You can even play it indoors one on one with your siblings if it’s raining outside.

As an additional layer of flexibility, you don’t need the official player count of 11v11. If you’re in a small space, you can make it a 7v7 or 5v5 game.

This flexibility allows people from different countries with diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds to adjust the game to their circumstances and have fun. 

3. Soccer Is a Player-Focused Game

You’ll no doubt have noticed that in sports such as football, the coach dictates your strategy. The coach decides every play. The players have no option but to follow those instructions even if they think they have a better strategy. 

In soccer, the coach sets a significant part of the strategy. However, if the captain or any other player thinks of a better idea during a game, they have the freedom to carry it out.

Soccer players are encouraged to think for themselves, notice what is happening around the soccer field, and make any necessary adjustments to benefit their team. 

Soccer is a sport where both team effort and individual players can shine without overshadowing each other. You have fewer restrictions and more liberty, two things that everyone would welcome. 

4. Soccer Is Simple Compared to Other Sports

Another major factor behind the popularity of soccer is its simplicity. 

The simplicity of soccer is how soccer became so popular. Most times, people don’t watch or play sports if they don’t understand it. Soccer’s popularity spread around the world due to how easy it was to understand the game.

  • “The ball went in, so why did he get more points this time?”
  • “Why wasn’t he allowed to tackle that player when it was fine just a few minutes ago?”.

These are some usual questions of people who don’t follow games such as basketball or football. The same holds for baseball, where people might get confused about an out and an inning or why sometimes the player runs the base and sometimes they don’t. 

However, the rules of soccer are so simple that toddlers can understand them in one go.

referee blowing whistle
Soccer Referee blowing whistle

The basics are straightforward.

  • You have a 90-minute game where you have to get the ball into the opponent’s goal as many times as you can.
  • Each time you score a goal, you get a point.
  • The team with the most points wins.

The learning curve for soccer is so flat that someone who isn’t familiar with the game would know what’s going on within a few minutes.

5. Soccer Has a Rich Legacy

By sports standards, soccer is ancient and is still alive and kicking both literally and figuratively.

History traces ball games similar to soccer as far back as 200 BC.

  • However, the first soccer club, Sheffield F.C, came into existence in 1857.
  • The oldest competition, England’s FA Cup, was held in 1871.
  • The first international soccer game took place between Scotland and England in 1872.
  • And Uruguay hosted the first World Cup in 1930. 

This rich history has created many soccer clubs and soccer-crazy nations that have developed a culture around the sport and passed it on as a tradition through generations.

6. Marketing Increases Soccer’s Popularity

Marketing also plays a major role in the 4 billion strong soccer viewership.

While the World Cup is the biggest event, the soccer leagues that include European clubs give a better idea about the eye-watering marketing deals that take place. 

Deloitte estimates the European football market to be worth over $35 billion, with an average crowd count of over 40,000.

Brands also pay big money for sponsorship deals. For instance, Barcelona raked in $233 million from its most prominent sponsor, while Real Madrid attracted $210 million

Big-name brands spend vast amounts of money on these deals because the sport is so heavily intertwined with European culture. There are many pubs, hotels, bars, and cafes all themed after the sport. And you won’t be able to avoid the word soccer (or football as it’s called in Europe) wherever you go.

The highest selling sports video game in history is also FIFA, published by EA.

Brands pay considerable sums in those sponsorship deals since they have a vested interest in soccer’s popularity and want its influence to increase. 

7. Soccer Fans Passion Drives the Game’s Popularity

You may know a few obsessive NBA or NFL fans. However, their obsessiveness and passion won’t hold a candle when compared to soccer fans.

If you travel out of the US, you will witness how seriously people take this sport.

soccer fans
Soccer Fans

Cities with multiple soccer clubs are divided, and fans of one may not conduct any business in the part of the city where the rival club holds more influence.

Unfortunately, the outcome of games has at times led to brutal behavior and riots several times, and they even have a term for it – “Football Hooliganism”.

The passion people have for this game isn’t something to be trifled with. 

8. Competition Is High in Soccer

The sport is also very competitive.

It’s a fast-paced sport with a heated atmosphere where you see players being skilled, graceful at one time, and fierce or aggressive the next moment.

The players share the crowd’s passion, and since it’s so popular with so many players, it gets very competitive. The competitive spirit also makes players do everything within their limit to win the game for their club, making for a very entertaining game. 

9. Soccer Has a Strong International Appeal

Most sports are usually played in one particular region.

For instance:

  • Football is played in the US,
  • baseball is played in the US and parts of Asia and Europe,
  • and the UK and the commonwealth nations play cricket.

However, soccer and the organization behind it, FIFA, has an international appeal, unlike any other sport. 

It has 211 member countries divided into six different regions. That means the sport is on every continent and every country has the opportunity to qualify for the World Cup. It is probably one of the few sports competitions that deserves to put the word “World” in its name.

Due to the sheer size of the competition, citizens of the qualifying countries unite when they qualify for the cup and passionately cheer for their national team. 

10. The Game’s Short Duration Maintains Interest

NBA games usually last for 48 minutes, and NFL games can stretch up to 3 hours with all the quarters and breaks. Average baseball games last around 4 hours, and they can last longer if you have extra innings.

So, depending on your choice of sport, the game may feel too short or too long. 

In contrast, a typical soccer game lasts for 90 minutes. You won’t wish for more fast-paced action to match your excited state at the end of the game, nor would you feel tired, exhausted, and bored. 

11. Soccer Is Relatively Safe

NFL, the most popular sports league in the US, is known to be right up there with MMA and Boxing when it comes to the risks to an athlete’s safety. It’s a full-contact sport that has led to numerous injuries and even deaths on the field.

Apart from that, athletes also suffer from severe health problems after their retirement.

Compared to this, soccer is relatively less dangerous, especially for the youth. Yes, accidents may happen at any time. However, you are more likely to leave the field with a minor injury instead of a fatal risk.

Apart from all those factors, the inclusivity of soccer is a major reason it’s so popular. If you aren’t into soccer, you should give it a watch.

Why Soccer Isn’t Popular in the United States

Soccer in the US
Soccer in the US

There are multiple reasons for soccer’s popularity worldwide (as we’ve just seen), but you don’t have to be an expert to realize that this popularity doesn’t seem to have transferred to the United States. Why is this?

The reason soccer isn’t popular in the United States is that the US has traditionally preferred sports with strong American values and history. US sports such as football, baseball, and basketball are uniquely American and therefore maintain greater popularity than the European sport of soccer.

When England first invented soccer in 1863, it would have been tough to predict how popular soccer would become. Over the following years, the vast majority of countries worldwide embraced this sport and never looked back.

However, when soccer arrived on the shores of the United States, it struggled to gain the support that had been readily available in other countries.

One of the main reasons for this lack of popularity is that America as a nation was determined to set itself apart from the rest of the world

Choosing to embrace a sport that had developed in England would be seen as a backward step. (Although, you may be surprised to know that the word “soccer” is actually an English word that Americans have adopted!)

Instead of following in the footsteps of the European and South American countries, the US decided to create new sports that would set them apart from the past and the lands of their forefathers.

Instead of playing soccer, the US created and developed the sports of football, baseball, and basketball. Three sports that now dominate American culture and are far more popular than soccer.

Although soccer is growing in popularity, it will take a long time before it gives any of these three American sports a run for their money!

For more information on soccer and US sports, check out one of my related articles:

Ben Clayfield

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

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