Throughout the twenty-first century, globalization has spread across economy, political relations, people, and popular culture all over the planet.
The world of sports has also been radically globalized during this same period of time.
NBA and MLB are filled with players that reside from countries outside of the United States. The arrival of Yao Ming added thirty million Houston Rockets fans to a team that only has one million viewers in the US currently.
With the rise of the US Soccer team, the World Cup has truly become a global competition. Regular season football and hockey games are now played abroad, while foreign soccer teams tour on American soil.
How will the globalization of sports change the games we know and love today?
Will these changes improve sports for the fans or only line the pockets of owners and corporations?
To what extent will the relevancy and hierarchy of the established leagues be transformed by the pressures of global markets?
In a six-part series, these and many other questions will be addressed and also explained how each of the major sports can best transition into this global society while maintaining its quality of play.
The history of international sports, up to this point, has been sporadic.
In 1896, the revival of the summer Olympics was the first truly global competition, but it was restricted to amateurs.
The World Soccer Cup emerged in 1930 as the first global competition that allowed professional athletes. Soccer championships (such as the European Champion Clubs' Cup, which later evolved into the Champions League) would also arise throughout the world in the mid-twentieth century.
Outside of soccer, globalization has been limited. American sports leagues have added Canadian franchises in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal while the NHL expanded hockey to the United States.
However, since the 1990’s, globalization has excelled with the advancements of technology and the acceptance of professional athletes in the Olympic Games.
The domination of the 1992 USA Dream Team basketball squad has inspired foreign youth to play American sports while the 1994 World Soccer Cup led to the AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) to supersede Little League.
Today, players from across the world fill American sports leagues and European soccer clubs and these games, broadcasted on national television and the Internet, began the globalization of sports.
What changes does globalization provide for professional sports leagues?
The future of sports lies in the change from continental markets to global markets. Americans in the past five years have been seen regularly wearing Manchester United jerseys and Lakers fans can be found in China.
Eventually, leagues will have multi-continental franchises and road trips will tire players even more. Franchises and the surrounding sports league will see greater profit as the global market provides limitless expansions of revenue.
The percentage of international players will continue to grow along with the popularity of global competitions, such as the World Baseball Classic and the UEFA Champions League.
It is not even unlikely that ESPN International will appear in some countries.
These trends seem general, but different industries have different reactions to the global economy. For how each of the major sports is dealing with globalization and how it affects them, please read the rest of this series.
The next edition will be released tomorrow, when I will discuss how NBA has made basketball the world’s most popular sport and what challenges does the League face with its international fan base.
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