Most Americans do not care about the biggest sporting event on the planet. This is the news served up Monday morning by the Reuters agency, which may cause you to believe you’ve flashed back to 1982. Except you’re reading about it on the Internet, so that clearly is not the case.
Reuters and Ipsos conducted a poll regarding U.S. interest in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and determined that two in three Americans do not plan to follow the World Cup, with only 7 percent indicating they plan to follow the event closely.
The article discusses the growth of Major League Soccer in recent years, then states: “But soccer still has a long way to go before its marquee event can stake a claim alongside football's Super Bowl, the National Basketball Association finals, and baseball's World Series in American minds, the poll shows.”
Here’s the thing about that declaration:
No, it doesn’t.
OK, it’s true that everything in American sports has a long way to go to be compared to the Super Bowl. No one would stipulate otherwise. But let’s take a look at how the most recent World Cup performed in comparison to the other major sporting events.
In 2010, the World Cup final contested between Spain and the Netherlands drew an American audience of 15.5 million for ABC and another 8.8 million on Univision. That combined audience of 24.3 million far surpassed the combined 19.5 million Fox and Fox Deportes drew for the Game 6 victory by the Boston Red Sox over the St. Louis Cardinals to clinch the 2013 World Series. It was not far off the 26.6 million drawn on ABC and ESPN Deportes by the decisive game of the Miami Heat’s 2013 NBA Finals victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
The combined English and Spanish broadcasts of the entire 2010 World Cup – all 64 games – in the U.S. totaled 5.89 million viewers. By comparison, the English broadcasts of the full NBA playoffs in 2013 averaged 5.3 million. Spanish broadcasts numbers were not available for the entire NBA playoffs, but even if the Game 7 number of 269,000 viewers were extrapolated throughout it still would fall short of the World Cup audience.
Soccer has continued to advance its audience in the U.S. at a time when other sports are stagnant or declining. The 2010 World Cup ratings for ESPN/ABC represented an increase of 41 percent over its 2006 numbers.
Although the U.S. team's hopes for success at the 2014 World Cup have been diminished by being drawn into the “Group of Death” along with Germany, Portugal and Ghana, it is hard to imagine American fans not wanting to see how their team fares against such established world stars as Thomas Muller of Germany and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal.
Soccer interest continues to escalate here as more young Americans embrace the game and as the demographics change, with a greater influence from Hispanics who long have embraced the sport. How Reuters could not see something amiss in the methodology of its poll is hard to figure; how the reporter assigned to analyze the results could be so obtuse as to employ this quote in support of the article’s thesis is mystifying:
"It's just not a sport that has a lot of following," said Kelli Cousineau of Phoenix in declaring she won’t follow the World Cup. "The other sports like basketball, baseball and football are considered all-American."
Yes, someone really tried to make that case in 2014.
It'd be almost humorous if it weren't so tired.
- Sports & Recreation
- Major League Soccer