Soccer: A viable product for the U.S sports market?

As I was researching about soccer in the U.S, I found an article, “Can Soccer Ever Conquer the U.S?” in which the author feels optimistic regarding the possibility of soccer becoming a major sport in the U.S. Even though some people may argue that soccer is obtaining power and someday it may become a major league in the U.S, I strongly believe that those arguments are extremely optimistic.

Because sports can be conceived as a product, it is important to mention that while we are analyzing the viability of soccer in the U.S, we are basically conducting a marketing research regarding the sports market in America. Businesses use marketing research to gather information, such as, demographics and psychographics from the target market. This information is used to develop products and services or analyze the viability of these on the market being studied. In other words, an idea is determined by the information gathered from the target market. That is why it surprises me that people and organizations are trying to do the opposite for soccer: fit the American sports market and culture into soccer. As you may realize, it is extremely difficult to change a society’s behavior and make this society use a product that doesn’t desire.

My point is that after all of what we know regarding the sports market in the U.S, I don’t see reasons why soccer can ever conquer the U.S. The American sports market holds very specific peculiarities that simply make soccer an unviable and unsuccessful product in the U.S. This is because the great amount of barriers that exist, which make soccer unattractive for investors and the media.

Barriers of entry that exist for soccer range from cultural and historical elements to demographics and socioeconomic status. What all of these barriers share in common, are that they affect soccer’s popularity. In the article, “Why is soccer less popular in the U.S?” Martin Roderick and Ivan Waddington argue that in each society there is a limited space for sports and that once this space it’s filled out there is little space for other sports. In the U.S not only one sport has filled out this space, but a bunch of sports such as Football, Baseball and Basketball. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that soccer has strong difficulties in entering to the market. It is the same logic as with other markets; for example, companies like Coke and PepsiCo that possess an enormous market share from the beverage market, make this market unattractive for new ventures so deter competitors from entering it.

Additionally, there are many cultural aspects that affect the U.S sports market. The development of American football may have been a consequence of the American Revolution. Americans pursued for the development of a national sport different from that of Great Britain (soccer.) The U.S wanted to become an independent and “unique country.” Therefore, sports like Football and Baseball are not only a sport but an element that represents American history, independence and culture. For this reason, sports fans’ “collective conscience” is occupied by sports that are seen as their “national” past time and have little interest for other sports.

Another barrier of entry is that soccer in the U.S is linked with a person’s socioeconomic status. In the article, “Negative Impacts Defining the U.S Soccer Market”, soccer is defined as a country club sport in which people need to pay to play. Soccer players pay for dues, tournament fees, uniforms and so on. Therefore, all these costs limit the access to other parts of society, make soccer unpopular and even hide players that could be talented but can’t afford to play soccer.

On “Can soccer ever conquer the U.S?” the author exposes reasons why soccer could conquer the U.S and one of the main reasons is that there is an increasing interest from U.S networks to broadcast soccer contests. Even though this may be true, it is important to point out that the media broadcasting is strongly linked with the profitability of the sport and its profitability is strongly linked with its popularity. The main TV channels are owned by large corporations, such as, General Electric and Walt Disney, who are interested in sustaining their profits. Therefore, these channels are interested in broadcasting the major revenue sports.

In the following graph you can see the revenue generated by league in 2009. You may realize that the revenue generated by all leagues other than the MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL generate half of what the MLB generate individually. For this reason, soccer is not a profitable product, at least in comparison with other sports, and therefore it is completely unattractive for investors.

Chart page

It is also important to mention that great part of the media is owned by people and organizations that own teams in the major leagues, for example, the Cubs which are owned by the Chicago Tribune. This makes the media be strongly influenced by private and biased interests.

For the reasons mentioned above, I believe that soccer will never become a major league in the U.S. Big projects like the World Cup 1994, Pele and David Beckam, have shown that the efforts done by soccer organizations only generate sporadic interest in America. I believe that every sport is unique and beautiful. And for this reason, since the moment I arrived to America, I have been enjoying from American sports rather than aiming that soccer become popular.


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