According to the American Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), more than four times as many kids in the U.S. regularly play soccer than ice hockey these days.
What's the big deal?
In most parts of the world, especially in Europe, Africa, and South America, football (or what Americans call soccer) is, by far, the most popular sport in terms of fans, players, club members, media coverage, and public interest.
However, football, aka soccer, has never been able to break into the elite group of Big Four sports in the U.S.
The U.S. sports landscape has traditionally been dominated by American Football (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLS), Basketball (NBA), and Ice Hockey (NHL).
But this may change soon.
With 1.2 million teenagers regularly playing soccer, the U.S. sports landscape might soon face a significant shift. Undoubtedly, soccer is on the rise. Maybe even on the horizon as the next American sport.
Why is this generation defining?
In the past, there have been several "top-down" attempts to establish a vibrant soccer culture in the U.S.
For instance, in the 1960s and '70s, the North American Soccer League signed global but aging stars including Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, and Pelé to give national soccer global appeal and relevance.
But the star power never really appealed to local consumers.
However, this time, the soccer movement is driven by the grassroots level of kids playing the sports themselves, meaning they have a totally different connection to it.
This potentially opens up huge market opportunities for international brands like football clubs, leagues, federations, broadcasters, and consumer brands to tap into the U.S. market with a target audience that is finally ready for the “beautiful game.”