When referring to major professional sports leagues, the average American thinks of what is commonly referred to as the “Big Four”- the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the Nation Basketball Association (NBA) and the Nation Hockey League (NHL).
Major League Soccer is not yet thought of as a “major league”. However, 2014 attendance figures show that MLS out drew both the NBA and NHL in average attendance per game.
Only two other sports-leagues in North America drew more fans than Major League Soccer. One is the juggernaut that is the National Football League and the other is “America’s Pastime” Major League Baseball.
Average 2014 Attendance
*Seattle and Orlando lead the MLS in attendance with an average of 40,067 and 36,911 respectively.
Will the MLS ever catch MLB and the NFL?
At this point, some think it is a foregone-conclusion Major League Soccer will catch Major League Baseball in popularity. The theory being, Baseball is a slow game and doesn’t hold the attention of a lot of kids (and adults) being raised in the digital-age.
Previously, it would have been unthinkable soccer could ever approach the popularity of American-football, but the National Football League now has serious publicity problems.
The NFL is repeatedly being sued by its former-players, complaining about “life after football”. A large percentage of former-NFL-players have serious brain injuries sustained while playing the violent sport.
The lawsuits are being spurred-on by recent research involving the long-term-effects of concussions. Consequently, a lot middle class American kids are being discouraged from playing the game.
Out of the top-five sports leagues in North America, Major League Soccer earns the least amount of revenue by a wide margin. This is due largely to the lucrative television-contracts the other sports have signed.
TV Revenue Annually
NFL $6.5 Billion
MLB $1.5 Billion
NBA $930 Million
NHL $600 million
MLS $90 million
Nevertheless, the growth of soccer in the States over the last ten-years has been impressive. Major League Soccer is a young league compared to its counterparts and has only been in existence since 1996.
Comparatively, the National Basketball Association first tipped-off in 1946, National Football League was formed in 1920, the Nation Hockey League is going on its 99th season, and for all intensive proposes, Major League Baseball has been playing games since 1876.
Are we ready to consider soccer a major sport in the United States?