The Bottom Line: Futbol has the World Cup.
The US Men’s National Team finished its FIFA World Cup run with a 2-1 loss to Belgium. The game was a nail biter that introduced Americans to the amazing Tim Howard.
Why did this run in the FIFA World Cup attract so many Americans who are otherwise disinterested in futbol (translates to “soccer” in American)?
Because it was “US” vs. The World!
What is futbol’s appeal in the rest of the world? It is the chance to see your country excel. (Ann Coulter thinks all those foreigners just want to beat America at something.)
Americans, like everyone else, are suckers for National Pride and patriotic hashtags (#OneNationOneTeam). America wants that title.
Off Topic: How did those clever NFL marketeers miss the “Group of Death” tag for the NFC and AFC West divisions?
Time to give a nod to the USWNT teams that twice won the World Cup (1991, 1999) and the 1996 Olympics.
Americans were watching.
- An average of 18.2 million U.S. viewers tuned to ESPN to watch the U.S. vs. Portugal game according to Neilsen. Another 6.2 million watched the game on Univision.
- That compares to an average audience of 13 million for an NFL Monday Night Football game.
- U.S. vs. Belgium surely drew a larger viewing audience.
- The soccer community staged FIFA viewing parties in public venues all over the country, including NFL stadiums ̶ AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Soldier Field in Chicago.
- USMNT set an expectation of a deeper run in the 2018 World Cup games.
Roger Goodell isn’t shaking in his boots over this. Baseball is under a more direct threat. The MLS season overlaps the MLB season. Live attendance at Major League Soccer games reached six million last year. Baseball topped 30 million, but five MLS teams draw larger crowds than MLB teams.
Baseball’s fan demographics resembles the Republican Party, older, maler (Yeah, I made that up) and whiter than futbol and football fans. That’s not an easy sell to broadcasters.
Futbol presents both challenge and opportunity for the NFL. Roger Goodell has the moxie to exploit all the angles.
Watch parties at NFL stadiums surely caught owners’ attention. That is proof that the league can partner with soccer in ways us mortals do not yet perceive.
In fact, it has already happened.
The MLS Seattle Sounders joined forces with the NLF’s Seattle Seahawks to build support for public funding for CenturyLink Field, the home of both teams. Seahawks owner Paul Allen holds a minority stake in the Sounders.
The Glazer family, owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are majority owners of Manchester United; the world’s most valuable sports franchise says Forbes Magazine.
The NFL’s challenge it to make the American game more popular worldwide before futbol makes deep inroads in its U.S. audience. Goodell must invent a competing world championship.
That’s why we may see NFL franchises in London and Mexico City before we see one in LA.