Soccer has always been a sport which has been living in the shadows of various other big name sports, however, over the last couple of decades, interest in soccer has increased tenfold and is quickly becoming a favourite among Americans and Canadians alike.
Much of the interest has come from international competitions, such as the world cup of 2022, which broke almost every viewing record of any sports competition ever as Lionel Messi set his sights on his first and the greatest achievement in world football as he bested holding champions France which sent the country of Argentina into bedlam.
In addition to the coverage of the world cup, sports betting has also sparked a mass amount of interest into the sport, with regulations loosening allowing players from across the country place sports bets, explore live casino table games, and play exciting casino slots from the comfort of their homes, without having to set foot in places like Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Digital betting and casino platforms grant users more convenience, a wider variety of betting options, as well as crypto-powered deposits, as compared to brick-and-mortar locations, which attracts many.
American talent seemingly closing the gap
Another reason that interest in soccer has risen is through the home-grown talent scattered across the globe, playing in some of the greatest leagues in the world. The Premier League in the UK for example, hosts 9 US nationals across Arsenal FC, Chelsea FC, Leeds United and Fulham FC. It’s worth noting that Arsenal and Chelsea are two of the league’s biggest clubs, so to attain American representation in these clubs is a very big achievement and a step in the right direction.
With the sport only gaining more interest from the public, it’s likely that more American players will appear around the globe at top clubs. While there have been numerous American players of a great quality previously, it’s safe to say that there’s not yet been a top-class heavy hitter that would take the top spot for the greatest American to ever play, many thought that Christian Pulisic would have taken this, but unfortunately never lived up to his hype at Chelsea.
The World Cup 2026 – a big opportunity ahead
As the world cup in 2026 is being held across the United States, Canada and Mexico, it provides an incredible opportunity for all of the home nations to inspire the next generation and it could be a key catalyst for the next generation of Americans to begin competing at the top level of international soccer.
A key challenge for US soccer is to create more initiatives to allow more to get involved in soccer at grassroots level, as currently, the sport is immeasurably more expensive to play than anywhere in the world in the states. This is a challenge that has been ongoing for decades and once soccer is more accessible for all, paired with a vast growing interest in the sport may result in a steep incline in success for US soccer.
When assessing the top leagues in soccer, Major League Soccer is unfortunately a league that ranks in 10th in the best leagues in the world and this can come down to many factors. While the league itself is entertaining, the investment into the league overshadows many of the other leagues in the top 10 and with the investment and interest, the MLS should be far more successful and popular.
Foreign talent is key
Major League Soccer has seen many great players join the league and play in the US, but these are few and far between, with many world class players joining the league, such as Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham to name a few, with a special mention to one of the most famous players to play the game, Pele. While having such big talent is crucial, it seems that the league and some of the biggest clubs within can only attract these big names when they’re teetering on the edge of retirement from the game.
A vital step in the right direction for soccer in America would be to attract world-class players at their peak. There’s a handful of names that have won some of the biggest titles in world football that are currently housed in the MLS, however, as shown in the past, these are players that have already seen out their best years. Carlos Vela and Chicharito Hernandez are two examples of this and they have both excelled since joining.
The bridge between UK and US may be forming
With a number of clubs in the United Kingdom being owned by American companies, the thought of collaboration may not be all that far away. Those American-owned clubs include Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and the biggest club in the world, Manchester United and there’s already been ideas floated of some of the Premier League games being played at American stadiums and should this happen, there’s undoubtedly a wave of interest that will follow.
While this idea may not be all that popular in home-native fans of these clubs, the amount of money that can be generated from such fixtures being played in the US is astronomical and owners will always look to integrate their clubs into the roots of countries worldwide, even if it’s just pre-season fixtures or tournaments.