Why Major League Soccer Will Soon Rival the NFL in Popularity in the U.S.

Jonathan WooCorrespondent IOctober 1, 2012

CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 01:  David Beckham #23 of the Los Angeles Galaxy takes a direct free kick in the first half during the MLS match against the Vancouver Whitecaps at The Home Depot Center on September 1, 2012 in Carson, California. The Galaxy defeated the Whitecaps 2-0.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Professional sports in the United States is boasted as the best in the world, attracting talent across a multitude of countries to participate in a scheme that generates billions of dollars in revenue.

The National Football League (NFL) has been a giant in the world of spectacles for some time, challenged but unmoved by Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA).

And as the NFL commands a huge market share in sports consumption, it really lacks a competitor that can meet the fans' hunger and glorious stage upon which it celebrates its game.

Skipping over to Europe, where the aforementioned sports are far less heralded, soccer is king.

Built on a leviathan of a structure that webs together the entire continent, the sport has endless connection into a broad network of leagues and divisions. This is something that the U.S. will never acquire, making the European game a unique experience and construction.

Soccer is a growing sport in the U.S., aided first by David Beckham's move to the Los Angeles Galaxy, then by acquisition of the television rights to broadcast the game by those who do it best. So while the NFL is by far the most dominant in performance, soccer is in a position to claim a healthy chunk of a huge sports market.

A New Frontier

With the NFL, MLB and NBA in our own backyard, there exists a level of transparency and expectation when it comes to the revolving door of overlapping seasons and high levels of performance.

Major League Soccer, the dominant organization in the U.S., is just breaking ground on developing deep fanbases, stadiums and an overall product that is improving. 

Soccer was a project that had hardly been tinkered with over the past few decades, but its marketability has only been recently found to push the game onto the American public. So thanks to a handful of iconic players to help carry the league while it gathers itself, the MLS has taken off in recent years.

Suffice to say, soccer was a sport that had fresh and available markets to acquire and perhaps imitate the culture that complements the game. It is a frontier that has a number of possibilities, and with a big brother, per se, in Europe, there is always a standard when it comes to its performance and packaging.

It Goes Both Ways

While soccer has slowly crept from Europe into the American sports market, the NFL and the NBA have made strides to extend its product in a reverse manner. As the vanguards of the game, it only behooves each league to acquire more fans of the sport and the organization simultaneously.

Schemes to increase popularity and visibility constantly require tinkering. And playing with untapped markets is something that each sport and its overseeing organization have to consider.

The explosion of the English Premier League and Champions League competitions onto American sports programming has paved a way for newcomers to more easily access a wealth of games that showcase some of the best players in the world. It is a fostering kind of movement that could easily translate into more of a following for the domestic league—a benefit that the MLS will kindly take.

David vs. Goliath (But this time the favorite wins)

At the end of the day, the American football is Goliath and soccer is David.

There is a huge separation between the two sports, but soccer is definitely closing the gap. The silliness that was replacement referees in the NFL did not help its cause, but fans will always come back to the game.

Nevertheless, the hunger that is there for American football can be there for soccer as well. With the MLS rising in status with a format that translates well with other American league structures, popularity is visibly increasing.

Additionally, the ever-present nature of Europe's best leagues and the enthralling Champions League are iconic spectacles that can feed any appetite in the U.S.

It is an uphill battle for sure, but soccer is a sport that is gaining a foothold in American sport culture that likely will not vanish.