World Cup 2026 To Crown Decades Of Growth In North America
Zeeshan Mehtab 6 days ago Wed 13th June 2018 | 08:15 PM
The decision to award the 2026 World Cup to North America on Wednesday follows an explosion in football's popularity across the region which can be traced directly to the 1994 finals staged in the United States.
Los Angeles, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 13th Jun, 2018 ) :The decision to award the 2026 World Cup to North America on Wednesday follows an explosion in football's popularity across the region which can be traced directly to the 1994 finals staged in the United States.
For decades, the United States was regarded as the final frontier for the world's most popular sport, with the beautiful game unable to encroach on territory dominated by baseball, basketball and American football.
A promising flirtation with the sport in the 1970s -- when stars like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff lit up the North American Soccer League -- flamed out when the league was wound up in 1984.
"Soccer: sport of the future -- and it always will be," ran the old joke beloved of American football-sceptics.
A total of 3,587,538 spectators thronged stadia across the United States for the country, generating an average attendance of 68,991 fans per game, a record which exists to this day.
More significantly, as a condition of the USA being awarded the tournament, a professional domestic competition was re-established, Major League Soccer.
"The development of the national team and the creation of Major League Soccer wouldn't have happened without the World Cup," Los Angeles lawyer Alan Rothenberg told the Los Angeles Times in a 2014 interview.
"The whole sport got elevated from what was essentially a hand-to-mouth grassroots operation to a well-funded, well-run professional organization." - Changing demographics - At grassroots level, football in the United States is thriving, with more than 24.4 million Americans playing the sport at some level, second only to China, according to FIFA figures.
While the NFL (37%), basketball (11%) and baseball (9%) remain ahead of it, soccer is rapidly creeping up on the rails.
Crucially soccer is capturing the key demographic of younger fans.
While only 1% of American sports fans older than 55 named soccer as their favourite sport, that number jumps to 11% in the 18-34 age group, tying basketball and comfortably ahead of baseball (6%).
The English Premier League has broadcast live games on the main NBC network for several years, while the Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Champions League are also readily available on various cable networks.
Coverage of soccer in US media outlets has also expanded, with the New York Times in 2016 creating a position for a chief soccer correspondent based in London, an appointment described by the paper as a "huge move." While the 2026 World Cup will be hosted by Canada, the United States and Mexico, the US will stage the bulk of the games.
MLS commissioner Don Garber said the 2026 tournament in North America would be "a monumental step in our collective mission to advance the game of soccer here and around the world".
"There's no doubt that when the World Cup's here in eight years it's going to do incredible things to elevate the sport of soccer to levels that we can't probably imagine today."