Soccer has long been the most popular sport in the world. Millions of people watch soccer worldwide, but U.S. soccer viewership has always struggled.
There is just too much competition with other mainstream American sports, such as football and baseball, which take up most of the television time dedicated to sports. Soccer continues to be a popular youth sport, but it has yet to transcend to the American masses.
The 2006 World Cup garnered a huge television audience of 715 million viewers worldwide, but, the percentage of Americans who were glued to the television for the World Cup was miniscule compared to other countries. Many factors influence this, most of all the dominance of the NFL in the U.S. sports market.
Americans have always prided themselves in being pioneers and independent from the rest of the world. The domination of football in the U.S. sporting world can largely be attributed to this belief system.
Football is quintessentially American. Since baseball has been so widely adopted worldwide, football remains the only sport to be strictly American, both in players and viewership. As the most popular American sport, it manages to dominate the majority of sport television ratings.
A huge, and often overlooked, factor negatively affecting U.S. soccer viewership is the lack of soccer televised on U.S. networks and cable sports channels. The game of soccer itself is in large part to blame for this. Television stations depend on commercials for their profits. Soccer has no timeouts and is played non-stop for 45 minutes at a time. There are no TV timeouts or opportunities for commercials in soccer, except for at halftime.
However, there is still hope for soccer as a mainstream sport in the United States. Soccer continues to be one of the most popular youth sports today. The last 15 years have also seen the advent of MLS (Major League Soccer), which is a pro American soccer league.
Though it has attracted big soccer stars and puts the sport in the spotlight more, it still hasn’t managed to gain much television time. Until soccer is broadcast regularly to the American public, it will still pale in comparison to its popularity and visibility in the rest of the world.