By Michael Battista
Every saturday starting in August and going till May, freshman Interactive Multimedia major Michael Martin breaks the usual trend of people his age by waking up early just to watch a soccer game.
7 a.m. start times on some days, 9 a.m. on others, all hoping to catch his favorite team Chelsea FC play, a full six hours ahead of him time wise in their home city of London, England.
But after the game ends, he won’t see advertisements using any of their players like Diego Costa or Eden Hazard. He won’t see Chelsea FC merchandize in Models or Dick’s Sporting Goods, nor will he see it for any Premier League Team. The way the American sports landscape is right now, soccer isn’t one of the top sports in the nation for people to watch.
But recent trends in both ratings and public interest after this year’s World Cup could be an indication of a change in the sports landscape.
Usually, when talking to sports fans in the United States, it almost seems as though people view soccer as more of a hobby rather than a major attraction like other sports.
“Americans think it’s not action-y enough.” Martin says, “There are sports that are physical and quick like football and hockey, not technically heavy like soccer”
What about America’s soccer league, Major League Soccer (MLS) — How does that fair in the standings with the other big sports?
According to a Sport’s Business Daily article, NBC Sports raked in about 112,000 viewers per match, a 0.1 on the Nielsen ratings, which records audience size. ESPN and ESPN2 both respectively averaged 220,000 per match, also a 0.1.
However, 2014 saw a jump in viewers, according to an article from Soccer America. ESPN2 jumped 20,000 viewers to reach a 0.2 rating, while NBC Sports gained 30,000, but stayed at 0.1.
In the last World Cup, which broadcasts on major networks in the United States, more people watched the U.S. team lose to Belgium in the final 16 of the tournament (16.5 million) then last year’s NBA finals game between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat (15.5 million).
It should be noted, however, that the World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina broke a television record in the U.S. for a soccer game with 26.6 million viewers on ABC.
Still, the growing shifts are promising signs in a country with an abundance of sports to watch. Martin believes with some hope that these large numbers of big-name players may not have an impact now, but it could keep growing over time.
With more people tuning in for both Premier League and MLS, people like Martin may start to see more direct influences for their favorite sport in the near future for the first time in this country.