Every semester I overhear opinions of sports in passing conversation. Currently, it is prime NCAA basketball time, while for the National Football League (NFL,) it’s a lull.
Many students have a sport they are dedicated to. Mine is soccer.
I fell in love with soccer at a young age. My favorite movies and books growing up all had something to do with this sport. I started in the fourth grade playing for the city league and later the club team all the way through high school.
Many students on campus are soccer fans, but many prefer international teams or the English Premier League. I have nothing against those.
My enjoyment for watching soccer and following teams started with the U.S. National Soccer Teams and watching them compete in the World Cup and the Olympics. Then I was introduced to Major League Soccer (MLS), and I found my favorite soccer to watch.
The 2016 MLS season has begun, and as an avid fan and supporter, I can confidently say MLS is slowly taking over as a favorite sport in the U.S.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber said the MLS was founded to create a soccer nation of the USA and the recent jump in popularity looks promising.
In 2013 MLS realized that unless it wanted to fade away as its predecessors (the ASL, NPSL, NASL, USL etc.) they had to make changes. Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, but it has always struggled in the U.S. where many other sports exist, and baseball and football already have a devoted fan base.
But 2013 was the year MLS decided that if they wanted to continue to compete to become the most popular sport, then they would have to step up their strategy.
So the league introduced the expansion plan. This plan would increase the number of teams from 20 to 24 by the year 2020 and to 28 teams eventually.
Between 2013 and 2014, three new teams were announced.
The growth continued with New York City Football Club and Orlando City Soccer Club joining in 2015 and two more teams (Minnesota United Football Club and Los Angeles Football Club) said to join the league for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
All this growing of MLS in the U.S. will bring the league up to 23 teams.
I’m glad MLS is growing and with it the popularity of soccer. But I do worry that MLS could still be in danger. Gaining popularity for the sport of soccer in the US is not something that can be done overnight. I worry that if MLS tries to add too many teams too quickly, they could end up with less than promising results.
I think there is a growing desire for professional soccer, but MLS needs to ensure they aren’t being too hasty. Soccer teams need support to survive.
The teams need to build a fan base, but for that to happen MLS needs to attract more fans. This is what they are currently working on. MLS currently sets up exhibition games with such teams as Arsenal, Real Madrid andManchester City in hopes that fans of these teams will come out and see what MLS has to offer.
In an article, “How Social Media Marketing Helped Soccer Take Over The World,” the author said, “According to the numbers, social conversations over the first five days of the MLS season increased by 34% compared to the same timeframe in 2014.”
This was a larger increase than other professional sports leagues in the United States. MLS has taken advantage of Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and more.
By realizing that this is a way to connect to their fans, MLS is continuing to make their presence known. Soccer has not yet become the most popular American sport, but it’s well on its way.
I know not everybody will be a soccer fan just as I will never be a fan of watching baseball, but I encourage everyone to at least try watching a game this next week to see what you think.
Soccer is a strategic game. Soccer is a beautiful game. It can be fast paced, but not always.
Sometimes the score is 5-0, and sometimes it ends in a draw. It’s a game of strategy and patient buildup.
But the feeling when there’s a goal is almost indescribable. It’s what soccer fans live for.
After seeing them run, dribble, shoot, miss, pass, shoot and . . . SCORE! That’s the moment everyone has been holding their breath for, and finally they can let it out.
Every game is its own unique experience.
So if you love it, you’re welcome; if you don’t, oh well, I tried.
Soccer is a sport that has stolen my heart, and I hope it continues to capture my country.