Soccer has been growing in popularity stateside, meaning it’s high time marketers start paying attention to this phenomenon if they aren’t already. It’s an industry ripe with potential. With that in mind, here’s what marketers should know if they want to stay ahead of the game.
Soccer’s takeover is already underway. Since the U.S. hosted the 1994 World Cup, the sport has been steadily growing in popularity -- so much so that today one-third of U.S. adults identify as soccer fans according to a Morning Consult study. Which means there’s plenty of opportunity to tap into that fandom. Major League Soccer (MLS) has now expanded to host 29 teams, with billionaires and celebrities owning more than a few. If you're in Manhattan, you can even find official club stores, and major European clubs are hosting affiliate clubs and pre-season friendlies.
Soccer is a diverse sport and a reflection of today’s America. The growing popularity of soccer can be attributed in part to the sport's incredible diversity, with people from all walks of life (and generations) coming together to play and enjoy the game. The same Morning Consult study found that 40% of soccer fans are fans of color, making it one of the most diverse sports in the country. Additionally, the sport has become a way for immigrants to connect with their culture and community, serving as a source of unity and helping to break down cultural barriers.
Soccer culture in the U.S. is in its early stages, presenting a big opportunity for brands of all kinds. Despite the sport's growing popularity, soccer culture in the U.S. is still in its early stages compared to other countries, presenting a unique chance for brands to play a significant role in shaping and driving the culture forward. Through a variety of avenues, from sponsoring soccer teams or events to partnering with soccer influencers, brands can create a unique connection with fans.
With MLS, brands can go beyond just the game. Unlike other major sports leagues, MLS isn't bogged down by monopolies or splintered "super leagues." It's designed for modern America, catering to a new audience with different interests and expectations. So there's plenty of room for brands to get involved and create lasting connections with fans. Soccer is known worldwide for its vibrant culture, rivalries and rituals, which are being reimagined and revitalized in the U.S. By tapping into these unique attributes, brands can engage with MLS fans and build relationships that go beyond the game.
Thanks to the upcoming World Cups, the future looks extra bright. The U.S. women's national soccer team (USWNT) has already established a remarkable track record of success, and with the next FIFA Women's World Cup scheduled for the summer of 2023, there is a strong likelihood that the USWNT will continue its dominance on the international stage.
Similarly, the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the biggest sporting event ever in the U.S., with more fans attending games, more viewers tuning into broadcasts, and more sponsorship dollars changing hands. The United States men's national soccer team has been making strides as well, and success seems inevitable. Brands that invest in soccer now are investing in a bright future for the sport and for their connection with its fans.