You are on page 1of 8

Soccer in the United States

Soccer has become the dominant sport globally, but in the United States soccer does not
receive the same attention as it does in the rest of the world. So many other sports occupy the
minds of Americans, such as football, baseball, basketball, hockey, etc, and many simply are not
open to the idea of getting to know a new sport, such as soccer. However, with these factors
working against the growth of soccer within the country, the United States mens national team
has qualified for every World Cup since 1990, and went on to host the tournament in 1994. This
gave soccer in America a tremendous boost in popularity and viewership, and more Americans
tuned in to watch the 2014 World Cup than ever before. Soccer has had its ups and downs in the
United States in the past, but they were not caused by fluctuations in the sports popularity. Bad
business practices led to the demise of the first professional soccer league in the United States
known as the North American Soccer League, which existed from 1968-1984. However, the
failures of the NASL have paved the way for the current United States domestic soccer league
known as Major League Soccer, which has grown and expanded over its 20 years of existence
from ten teams to twenty.

During the NASL era, soccer flourished in the United States, and saw teams such as the
New York Cosmos drawing crowds
upwards of 40,000 to see international
soccer legends like Pele or Franz
Beckenbauer play with unrivalled skill.
With the popularity of soccer in the United
States surging, the NASL looked towards
aggressive expansion to grow the league
and compete with the likes of the NHL, NFL, MLB, and the NBA. However, this strategy proved
to stretch the league far too thin, leaving club owners strapped for cash and wanting to get out as
fast as they were able to get in. Many of these owners were also not necessarily soccer-oriented,
with many of them owning other American sports franchises. When profits started to decline,
they quickly lost heart in the business. Although the New York Cosmos were deemed a
successful soccer franchise in the United States, their model of spending millions on aging
players did not always translate to the other clubs in the league, causing them to lose millions in
the process. The final blow to the NASL came when FIFA decided to award the 1986 World Cup
to Mexico instead of the United States. The decision led many in the league to believe that this
would hurt the already weakened viewership, and the NASL was forced to suspend operations

When the United States was awarded the right to host the 1994 World Cup, FIFA also
promised to establish a professional soccer league in the country. After the World Cup, the
inaugural season of Major League Soccer
began in 1996 with ten teams. The failures
of the NASL loomed large over MLS, and
the leagues low attendance records in its
first season led many to believe that soccer
did not have the capability of becoming a viable and profitable sport in the United States.
Attempts were made to Americanize soccer with the usage of shootouts to end tie games and a
countdown clock which had the halves end when the clock reached zero after 45 minutes. These
new rule changes failed to attract American sports fans to soccer and, in addition, alienated
traditional soccer fans. The quality of the leagues American players was also shrouded in doubt,
as the US mens national team, which included several players from MLS, finished last at the
1998 World Cup.

MLS was hemorrhaging hundreds of millions of dollars every year between its
establishment in 1996 and 2004, which led to the league replacing its commissioner. The
installment of a new commissioner in Don Garber marked a turning point for MLS and soccer in
the United States. Garbers vision was to make MLS one of
the top leagues in the world by 2020, which would first
require the league to stabilize itself financially. One of the
first steps to put MLS on the right financial footing was to
move the teams out of the large and expensive football
stadiums and into soccer-specific stadiums. Fourteen of the
twenty-four current teams and future expansion teams have
moved into brand-new or refurbished soccer-specific
stadiums, while five more clubs are in the process of
constructing or searching for a new stadium. The league then
went on to adopt the International Football Association
Board rules in 2005, which put an end to the unpopular
shootouts and countdown clocks. The unexpected
quarterfinal berth of the USMNT in the 2002 World Cup
gave a huge boost to league attendances, as the MLS Cup in
2002 drew a record crowd of 61,316. During this transition
period, however, MLS lost several of its homegrown talents to larger European clubs, including
the USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard, but were able to recoup such losses by demanding large
transfer fees compensation paid by the buying club to the selling club for the right to offer the
player a contract for such players in the millions, which put MLS on sound financial footing.

The last ten years for MLS were characterized by rapid growth and expansion, as the
league grew from twelve teams in 2005 to twenty teams in 2015. By 2020, Don Garber has
stated that he wants to have 24 teams
in the league, and with cities like
Minneapolis, Miami, Sacramento,
and several others clamoring for a
professional soccer team, this seems
to be an attainable goal. From an
ESPN survey of 18,000 people
conducted in 2012, more than one third of the participants identified themselves as fans of MLS,
which is a remarkable 33% increase since 2002. In addition, avid fans of MLS have also
increased by 43% over the past decade, which is the fastest growing fan base of any sport in the
United States. While MLS may not be able to come close to the NFL in terms of its popularity
and commercial success, it certainly has the ability to become the second most popular sport in
America. Careful and strategic planning by MLS led to the establishment of eight new teams, all
with passionate fan bases, as the league continued its development into a top soccer league. The
future of soccer in the United States is very bright, and definitely has the potential to become a
well-respected and lucrative sport within American sports culture.

Response Letter
Thank you to Grant and Sara for reviewing my Unit 4 rough draft. I have taken Grants
suggestion to add an explanation about the transfer fees that I mention in the article, and I have
added a small sentence to explain what I am referring to when I mention this term. Grant
mentioned that I should add the article the before MLS, but this would not be grammatically
correct if the abbreviation were to be read in full. For instance, you would not say, which put
[the] Major League Soccer on sound financial footing It would make more sense to say
which put Major League Soccer on sound financial footing, and therefore, I have left all of the
abbreviations of Major League Soccer without the unnecessary the article at the beginning. I
also took Grants suggestion to add more information about the trending movement of MLS
clubs into soccer-specific stadiums. I did this by adding a sentence or two detailing how many
clubs had moved or were moving, and which clubs were actively looking for new stadiums. I
also took Grants suggestion to add a section that further details the future of soccer in America.
I did this by adding more information about the future of soccer in America to the last paragraph.
Sara suggested that I add more visuals to my article, which would provide the read with a
much more engaging design. I did this by adding a few pictures throughout the article to give the
article a more immersive feel.
I also added a dash to the transfer fees sentence to provide more explanation for the term
transfer fee without creating a run-on sentence.

Context Note
This document would be posted in a newspaper or magazine that has intentions of
educating its readers about the growth and future of soccer in the United States. Periodicals such
as Sports Illustrated would feature such an article, but websites such as, would
also be interested in publishing such an article for marketing and public relations purposes. The
audience for this article will be American sports fans with little to no knowledge of soccer or
American sports fans with an adequate to high knowledge of soccer. These two audiences are
very different, and would probably view the prospect of soccer in the United States differently,
as well. American sports fans with little to no knowledge of soccer might view this subject with
hostility and be close-minded towards the growth of a new sport in America. American sports
fans with an adequate to high knowledge of soccer would embrace this subject, and be excited
towards the prospect of a new sport developing in America.

Works Cited
Morrell, Alex. "After Flirting With Failure, Major League Soccer Popularity Now
Surging." Forbes. N.p., 8 Nov. 2013. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
"MLS History." N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
"The Official Site of NASL." History. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.