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Research Paper - Tarik Benfquih
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Research Paper

            In the United States, there are a few organizations that help to promote youth soccer. In particular, AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) and US Youth Soccer. Both these programs were created with the common goal of introducing more and more kids across the United States to a sport not so common in this country. According to World Population Review, “While it may not be apparent in the United States, association football—also known as soccer—is the most popular sport in the world by a vast margin. Soccer is king in virtually all of EuropeSouth AmericaAfrica, the Middle East, Central America, and Asia. The sport has roughly 3.5 billion fans worldwide and 250 million players across 200 countries around the world. The next most popular sports in the world are cricket (2.5 billion fans), basketball (2.2 billion fans), and field hockey (2 billion).” Clearly, we can see just how different we are compared to other countries preferred sport. With that being said, there are a multitude of reasons for AYSO’s and other organizations’ inability to promote the sport.

            One large factor is the name of the sport. The difference between soccer and football is large. By this I mean that its often confusing to people when you say football, because they think of American football, not soccer. This immediately causes a rift between the two sports. Secondly, the American culture is just geared towards football and baseball and basketball. Typically, people in this country prefer higher scoring, faster paced sports. For these reasons, golf is not the most popular and basketball is among one of the most popular. The constant action is what people want to pay a lot of money for. Take for instance an American football game, that has a final score of 28-21. What many people don’t realize is that’s the same as a 4-3 soccer game, just with different values associated to scoring. I think that perspective could help change some people’s idea that soccer is just slow and boring.

I don’t think these youth organizations are failing in making the sport popular, I think it’s the media and culture that we are a part of that has more adverse effects. We can see according to Zachary Rose of SchneiderDowns, that from2003 to 2019, there has been a 31.5% increase in High school soccer participants. “In 2003, a total of 658,817 boys and girls competed in high school soccer while in 2019, a total of 853,182 boys and girls competed in high school soccer” (Rose, 2019). The sport is clearly growing in popularity, with a large reason for that being the arrival of international superstars to the MLS (Major Soccer League). Stars like David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney only furthered the growth of the sport amongst the youth. This is where I bring back the media problem. In America we have no problem showing athletes from our sports, but we rarely show athletes who play abroad. Even American athletes that go international are unheard from again, until they can make a return to a US sports league. Soccer promotes a healthy and active lifestyle as well, which is one thing Americans tend to overlook. There are no players in soccer who are out of shape even slightly. They run upwards of 5 miles a game on average and that’s no light feat.

Should our media transition to showing more athletes from overseas, then I think more and more kids would be inclined to want to be like these players. Players like Messi, Kevin De Bruyne and Sadio Mane are just three examples of not only extraordinary athletes, but extra ordinary people. When kids go on their phone and all they see is basketball and football and baseball, why would they want to try anything else? You have to give these kids a reason to want to play soccer, more than anything else. Kids know how much these athletes get paid, what’s even crazier is there’s more opportunity all around the world to play professional soccer. In almost every city in every country abroad you visit, there will be a soccer team. In countries like England there are 8 divisions of football that you can work your way into and upwards from. All kids need, is to be exposed to the sport and the rest would follow. There’s a reason soccer is growing more and more in the United States, and we are on the right track to getting the sport where it needs to be. With prominent American figures stepping into the spotlight like Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie and even coaches like Jesse Marsch and fictional ones like Ted Lasso, the youth will be more and more in touch with the sport and the regularities of it. Perhaps the most important thing to look forward to for these organizations is the 2026 World Cup. For the first time since 1994, soccer is coming to the US, and I think this could be the steppingstone we needed.

Citations:

  1. Hart, M. (n.d.). Analyzing the growth of soccer in America. Schneider Downs Tax Services. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from https://www.schneiderdowns.com/our-thoughts-on/growth-of-soccer-in-america
  • Most popular sport by country 2022. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2022, from https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/most-popular-sport-by-country