Over the years, I’ve had a couple memorable conversations with people in the United States about the popularity of soccer. Some fellas feel that soccer will eventually compete in popularity in the United States with the Big 4: baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. I’ve always felt strongly the opposite. Since I’ve been curious what others think, I ran a couple polls on Twitter.
I ran two separate polls on Twitter, each were listed twice. The reason being is that I didn’t select the right duration on the first pass, which was for just 3 days. After 2 days, I realized I needed to extend the duration so I ended and republished the polls. On the second pass, I ran them for 7 days. That said, both passes collected responses so the results shown here are a combination of my votes (+1 per poll) and the data from those two collection sets. The language varied for both runs of polls but as you’ll see below, the wording differences are minute.
In the United States, do you think soccer will ever be as popular as football?
Pass 1: In the United States market, do you think soccer will ever be as popular as football?
? Duration: 2 days (April 8-10). 10 votes collected: All No
Pass 2: In the United States, do you think Soccer will ever be as, or more popular than football?
? Duration: 7 days (April 10-17). 35 votes collected: 34 No, 1 Yes
Globally, do you think soccer cards will ever be as popular as basketball cards?
Pass 1: With regard to card collecting, do you think soccer cards will ever be as popular as basketball cards?
? Duration: 2 days (April 8-10). 10 votes collected: 9 No, 1 Yes
Pass 2: Globally, do you think Soccer cards will ever be as popular as basketball cards?
? Duration: 7 days (April 10-17). 30 votes collected: 27 No, 3 Yes
There’s no way to measure data overlap but since both questions on Pass 2 collected at least 30 votes, we can legitimately generalize our findings. That said, let’s look at what we might learn from our data.
Data Collection Takeaways:
Soccer is a/the (depending on who you ask) dominant sport in Europe and some other countries. While foot-ball originated in its infancy in Mesoamerican cultures over 3,000 years ago, soccer as we know it today was refined in England in the mid-19th century.1 While we [America] have Major League Soccer (MLS), and with signs of attendance growth, it’s still pretty new and wasn’t profitable until as recently as the mid-2000s. Given the age of the sport in the United States, it doesn’t have the rich history it does in other countries.
Soccer cards only recently became a thing. While soccer cards have been around for decades, they didn’t really pickup steam in the United States until Panini America began releasing them in a more mainstream format when the company was restructured in the latter part of the 2000s (Panini Soccer Stickers have achieved robust international popularity). Until then, the American market didn’t really share the same level of appreciation for soccer cards it did for trading cards from the Big 4. That said, they missed things like the ’90s insert craze, the advent of relic cards, and pack-inserted 1/1s. While much of that stuff exists in the soccer card market today, it’ll be some years before we can look back and remember with the same degree of nostalgia we display with baseball cards.
To see what’s currently on eBay from Panini Soccer, click here.
While basketball and soccer both share a significant level of global attention, basketball has one thing soccer never will. While both sports share significant levels of market interest from segments around the globe, soccer cards don’t appear to have the same level of collectibility as basketball cards. Basketball cards experienced the ’90s insert craze and values continue to appreciate as time passes. Basketball also has two words soccer will never have – Michael Jordan.
Soccer isn’t nearly as exciting as any of the Big 4. Many of us don’t prefer to sit for 3.5 hours to watch a game of guys running back and fourth on a field for a final score of 1-0. Baseball might not be the most action packed sport of the Big 4 but at least we get to see interesting plays pretty frequently. As for basketball, football, and hockey, structurally speaking, they’re identical to soccer. However, the games are faster paced with all sorts of action and scoring happing throughout. Bottom line, Big 4 sports are just more entertaining, which is probably why they bring in the marketing dollars.
The Big 4 are finely woven into the American heritage and culture. We have baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. While some are more popular than others, they’re all finely woven into America’s heritage. Throughout the year, we go to sports bars, neighborhood BBQs, and events with friends and family to share stats and stories on our favorite players and teams, our thoughts on interesting plays, trades, and other pieces of information associated with each of these four sports. For the calculated, this is an excellent bonding experience. For the casual, it’s a great way to blow off stress after a long day at work. It’s been this way in America since the beginning of these sports and will continue into the foreseeable future.
Soccer is an insanely popular sport… in other countries. It’s kinda popular in the United States but given its age in America and based on the data collected, magic may have to intervene for it to compete with the highest grossing sport in America – the other football. That is of course if CTE doesn’t get the best of the NFL.2 As far as collectibility, even with its global attention, our data indicates basketball cards will always be more popular. At least that’s the assumption for now, which isn’t a surprise.
Even though it’s not really the classic sport of America’s heritage, given the social makeup, I do believe there will always be a market for soccer in the United States. It may not be as covered, as promoted, or as monetized but it will always be attended and there’s lots of potential for growth. I believe there will always be a place for it in America.
Do you have something to share? Post a comment below.
- Football history. www.footballhistory.org ↩︎
- Staggering new study estimates the rate of CTE among NFL players could be more than 25 percent. thinkprogress.org ↩︎