Over at SoccerLens, Dan Leo has an excellent, albeit sobering, look at the state of US Soccer. It’s easy for suffering US Soccer fans to get euphoric over even the smallest successes, but it’s good to have a reality check once in a while.
I think Dan probably sells the MLS a bit short recently, primarily due to it’s expansion and continued moderate success. The popularity of soccer in the US is growing. The availability of soccer matches via satellite and cable have had a huge impact. American EPL fans are still American soccer fans who may someday decide they want to see matches live. Viewer ratings for some US Soccer events have been better than expected. But it is still an agonizingly slow progression.
I also think he overlooks the potential impact of American youth soccer, which continues to grow at an amazing rate in the US. While that doesn’t directly translate into adult soccer fans later on, it certainly can help. The problem is that most people wish more youth soccer players would translate directly into adult soccer fans later. I think we should consider another group of potential fans – their parents. 17 million youth soccer players means a heck of a lot of youth soccer parents learning and cheering on soccer every week. I know many youth soccer parents who have turned into soccer fans through friendships made on the youth sideline, etc. Which is one area I think youth soccer leagues can help a lot.
In a future article I’m going to look into ways youth leagues can help generate excitement for the adult game in America, not just among their players, but also their parents. With an estimated 17 million kids playing soccer, the potential impact is huge.