Sports fans, stop me if you’ve heard this one before – but soccer is on the rise in the United States. This time, however, this isn’t just a vague assertion from a hopeful commentator hoping to inflate the sport’s relevance with words. Rather, it’s a statistically proven fact. Per Gallup, soccer’s popularity has tripled in the last decade. It’s now the United States’ third most popular sport, and is closing in on the “big three” of football, basketball, and baseball (and yes, this means it’s already surpassed hockey, even if the NHL remains incredibly popular in select areas).
What we don’t know is where the rise will stop. It could be that this is about as popular as soccer gets in the U.S. Or, with the sport more relevant and the World Cup on its way to North America in 2026, it could be that soccer can climb even higher. And if that’s the case, at a certain point it will begin to capture public attention even beyond those who already enjoy and follow the sport. For that reason, those of us in the U.S. who love sports should probably get used to the idea that we’re going to become soccer fans, at least casually. So just for fun, as well as because I firmly believe in the sport’s growing relevance, I’ve written up a guide for how to be a soccer fan in America.
Play FIFA Video Games
It’s not a huge stretch these days to say that playing a sports video game can actually make you a better real life sports fan. For one thing, it familiarizes you with how the game is played to some degree. More importantly though, playing FIFA can expose you to the rosters for the most noteworthy teams in the world, on both the club and national level. It’s easier to get into a sport if you know who’s playing it, and while a video game isn’t the real thing you might be surprised how much you learn and how many opinions you form based on the game versions of live players.
Watch The Premier League
Soccer leagues around the world actually have very different styles. This isn’t just something fans say – it’s even reflected in betting markets. One guide specifically notes users should decide what kind of football they’re going to bet on before picking a site. That should indicate the depth of stylistic difference, and because of that I’d recommend you give lots of popular leagues a shot. If you want to know where to start though, the Premier League is the world’s most famous league and the one it’s easiest to follow as an American, because of everything from match times to TV availability to fellow fans.
Follow The Americans & USMNT
National team soccer is a little strange. Teams play on somewhat random schedules and because players are busy with their club teams, the national team can look very different from one competition to the next. It’s still a good idea to watch the USMNT whenever possible though so that you can infuse your growing soccer fandom with some national pride and a sense of the highest level of U.S. soccer. For that matter though, there are also great U.S. players to watch in Europe if you want to get a feel for who the top Americans are. (Hint: Christian Pulisic at Borussia Dortmund is the best American player in a generation, if not ever.)
Watch A Local High School Game
This might seem like a strange recommendation, and you certainly don’t want to be weird about it. But one of the reasons soccer has continually been projected as a rising sport in the U.S. is that there’s a lot of enthusiasm for youth soccer. Particularly with concussion concerns plaguing football and young people losing interest in the slow pace of baseball, a lot of great athletes gravitate toward soccer. This means that top high school programs can be very good, and can give you a more raw sense of the joys of the sport. If you get a chance, take in a local high school game. You might be surprised how much fun it is, and it may even get you interested in watching the sport at higher levels.