As many Americans are aware of, soccer is a global sport that the United States refuses to partake in. The U.S. men’s national team consistently underperforms given our large population. America’s national attitude towards soccer is completely uninterested. The United States hosts five key national sports leagues: the NHL, NBA, MLS, and the NFL. The MLS, or Major League Soccer, represents the premier soccer league in the United States. Among the top five sports leagues, the MLS consistently ranks least for overall interest (1). If the United States hopes to compete in soccer at the international stage, national attitudes towards soccer must change.
According to Statista, the MLS ranks substantially low on their sports survey. Their sports survey, titled, “Most popular men's professional sports leagues among fans in the United States as of July 2019.” which surveyed around 6,500 respondents, found that only three percent considered the MLS to be their favorite. This is compared to 33 percent for the NFL, 16 percent for the MLB and 10 percent for the NBA. According to this survey, the NHL received five percent, similarly a low percentage. So, how does the United States’s national teams rank on the international stage?
As many people are aware, the U.S. women's national soccer team won the 2019 World Cup, and the women’s national team is the most successful women’s team in history, with a record four world cup wins (2). The United States women’s national team ranks first in the world according to the FIFA Women’s World ranking, and rightfully so. However, the men’s national team ranks significantly lower on the Men’s World Ranking.
FIFA uses a sophisticated algorithm to rank both the National Men’s Teams and the National Women’s Teams. According to FIFA, as of the time of this writing, the small nation of Belgium ranks number one in the world. The United States often competes with nations in North and Central America, and observing their rankings relative to ours is a good measure as to how well we do compared to nearby nations (4). Our neighbor to the south, Mexico, ranks eleventh on the global rankings. Our neighbor to the north, Canada, ranks 73rd according to FIFA. The United States, although not qualifying for the most recent World Cup tournament, ranks an impressive 22nd. The United States ranks one below Peru and one above Wales. Given the United States' population and GDP, a ranking of 22 is actually quite low. This low ranking can be attributed to a very low interest in soccer as a sport in the United States.
In the U.S., young athletes are given opportunities to express their athletic ability in a number of ways. However, given limited opportunities for professional soccer in the United States, athletes are always encouraged to pursue careers in other, more popular sports. The appeal of other professional careers depletes the quality of soccer in the United States. This does not only apply to our national team but also for our domestic professional club team. Increased popularity in soccer will lead to increased quality of our homegrown soccer talent. Soccer is an international sport that brings nations together to compete in the “beautiful game.” With the United States’s disinterest in the sport, it is not included in global culture and global sports events. This leaves the United States disconnected from the global scene in more ways than just soccer. It leaves itself disconnected from the heart of global communication, diplomacy, and passion for the global culture of soccer.