Soccer Scene: The Fastest-Growing Major Sport in the US

Soccer Scene: The Fastest-Growing Major Sport in the US
Image by Mica Asato via Pexels

America is known worldwide for its love of sports and for the ability of its sportspeople. Americans commit 100% when they love a sport: they buy team jerseys, they tailgate at games, they buy season tickets, and they may even learn to play the sport they love themselves. American football is an excellent example of how Americans go big or go home when it comes to sports, whether it be playing them or loving them.

It’s European football, however, not American football that is taking the US by storm and growing at an unprecedented rate. Soccer might not be the first thing you think of in terms of American sport, but America has now joined the major league when it comes to all things soccer. The sport is growing in leaps and bounds, and more Americans than ever are now tuning in to both local and international matches.

Growing fast

Soccer is growing fast in popularity in the US, and its local teams are playing better than they ever have before. While historically the percentage of Americans that watch soccer or even know that it’s a sport that America takes part in at an international level was miniscule, that is changing fast. In 2022, 8% of Americans polled by the Washington Post said that soccer was their favorite sport.

This may not sound like a large percentage, but the US is enormous and it works out to a huge number of people! In 2004, this percentage was below 2%, which means that soccer is the fastest growing sport in the US to date. Basketball as a favorite sits at 12%, and baseball, known as the National Pastime, sits at 11%, so soccer is closing in fast.

It’s the under 30s that are driving this radical growth. More adults in the 18 to 29 year old age group say that soccer is their favorite sport than those who say they prefer baseball. Naturally, no other sport comes close to being more beloved than American football and the NFL – this is still the preferred sport over all age groups in the US. Although maybe not in the immediate future, some sports analysts believe that one day, soccer may be able to give American football a real run for its money.

The number of highschool students currently playing soccer informs this prediction: more students than ever are signing up for soccer. Twenty years ago, the combined number of youth players signing up for after- school soccer hung around the 600,000 mark countrywide.

In 2022, that number has jumped up to over 800,00, representing a 300% growth over a 40-year period. No other sport has taken off with such popularity among that group.

Adult numbers aren’t quite as shocking, but the growth is still impressive.

The gap between American football and soccer playing among American adults was over 700,000 in the 1980s. That gap had dropped to 400,000 by the early 2000s. In 2022, the gap had dropped again by half, representing an enormous jump in popularity.

Soccer Scene: The Fastest-Growing Major Sport in the US
Image by Zac Frith via Pexels


Why is soccer so popular these days?

The most obvious reason is that soccer, unlike football, is played by a large number of both men and women. Some schools do offer highschool football for girls, but for the most part its men only, especially the full contact version. The number of girls playing soccer in the US (at high school level) is 400,000, which is up from 50,000 in the 1980s.

The recent success of the American women’s soccer team cannot be overstated in this jump in numbers. Young women all over the country are seeing people like them playing soccer and doing well. Representation can never be underestimated as an influencing factor.


The relative safety of soccer as a sport is also a factor in the number of grassroots participants.


The level of quality play that American soccer teams are delivering has risen significantly over the last few years. Though the men’s soccer team is currently not on its best streak, the women are carrying the torch as the best in the world, and doing better than they ever have. Foreign talent is also making its way into the American teams.

This contributes to the growth of the sport but also to the continuation of this trend; the more good players there are on American teams, the more good players will want to transfer.

Not only is foreign talent coming here, but American talent is being fostered in Europe by some of the most skilled teams and coaches ever to have graced the beautiful game. With all of this going on on the field, huge sports networks like ESPN have added soccer to their roster, and channels like Fox Soccer have sprung up, dedicated entirely to the sport.

Soccer Scene: The Fastest-Growing Major Sport in the US
Image by Je Shoots via Pexels


Wrap up

The growth of the beautiful game in the USA has been interesting to watch. We know there’s more to come and we can’t wait to see what American soccer has in store for soccer fans all over the world.


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