Surprising: Web Shows Growing US Interest in Football (Soccer)

By Josh Catone

I’ve been a member of SitePoint’s forums since 2003, so I’ve witnessed first hand the large number of football (soccer) fans around here, and how heated things can get during the World Cup or UEFA tournaments. What I didn’t realize, was how many of those fans might be from the US.

Football in the US is a second class citizen in the sporting world. Dominated by our national devotion to US-style football (which is really nothing like what we call soccer), baseball, basketball, and even golf and hockey. But that could be changing. Possibly due to the effect of David Beckham, one of Europe’s biggest footy stars of the past decade, crossing the pond to play for the LA Galaxy in America’s professional MLS league, the type of football actually played with your feet has started to catch on here.

In June of this year, both Compete and comScore report about 500,000 worldwide visitors went to the MLS web site. That’s a far cry the 10.5 million who visited the Major League Baseball site in the same period, but it indicates that the league’s popularity has at least held steady since the debut of “Bex” last summer.

What’s even more encouraging for football stateside, is the interest that US fans showed in June’s UEFA Euro 2008 tournament. According to comScore, even though more than 50% of the traffic to came from Europe, the US sent the site the third largest number of visitors (just over a million) of any single country, behind only Germany (1.89 million uniques) and England (1.38 million).

And interest is apparently growing in the US, as well. Month-over-month, US visits to UEFA’s web site grew 277% for the Euro 2008 tournament — more growth than in any other country. “This highlights the increasing popularity of the sport in the U.S.,” writes comScore analyst James Gavin. “If the sky was crying when Bex left the U.K., it is certainly looking rosier over U.S. soccer fields these days…”

  • Joel

    It may take a generation or three, it’s only a matter of time before football (soccer) becomes a major, major sport in the US.

  • ian

    what does this article have to do with the web or the internet even?

  • @Ian: I’m not really sure how to respond to that… the article is about web traffic data and its possible correlation to real world trends. I don’t really see how you could argue that it isn’t about the Internet…

  • Errr. No. it was about soccer (of which I am a fan, mind you).

  • For the internet or not, it shows both are doing very well. Football (soccer) is on the rise due to a world famous footballer (whats his face ;P) within the USA which I’m glad because I feel the USA is always left out of the sports in Europe and it’s nice to see them.

    As for the website gaining hits, just shows you what PR and a well known face does.

  • Stan

    @XLCowBoy: Umm, what? Yes, it’s about soccer. . . AND its internet presence.

  • I know this is going to sound horrible, but I imagine a huge percentage of those visits from America came from either Nationalized hispanics or illegal aliens. I think Justin Timberlake got it right when he said the Beckham single handedly increased Soccer’s popularity in the States ‘about thiiiis much’.

  • tidalx

    Or you could just say the interest came from immigrants, without mentioning illegal or not, or bringing politics to it. Since the sport is widely popular in almost every country, it makes sense that any immigrant, Hispanic or not, would be very familiar with it.

    But the other logical explanation is that our younger population is warming up to it. Just driving around, I can see the growing numbers of high school (or younger) soccer tournaments and leagues. They have been growing in the last decade. Where do you think the term soccer moms comes from? The sons and daughters of soccer moms have grown up and become likely spectators.

  • asmith1

    “what does this article have to do with the web or the internet even?”

    I thought Sitepoint was as much about Business and Marketing as web development.

    Use a bit of intelligence and start making some ‘soccer’ (sorry its football) blogs and forums. In the UK you would be up against the BBC and Sky Sports sites, but I am sure the US still has some openings to make a profitable site.

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