It has become cliché to say that Americans think the world revolves around the United States and whatever is popular stateside must be popular around the globe. Now that the internet and social media have shrunk the world and, contrary to popular opinion, have brought us all closer together, we know that this is just not true. The best example of this is soccer. Yes, soccer, not football. Get over it, I’m American.
Soccer is by far the most popular sport on Earth. An estimated 4 billion people watch and/or play. A good way to illustrate how much bigger soccer is compared to football, America’s most popular sport, is to compare the viewership of the sports two biggest games: UEFA Champion League Final and NFL Super Bowl. I have excluded the World Cup Final because it only happens every four year, so it is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Just so you know, over 1 billion people watched the 2014 World Cup Final match.
2012-13 UEFA Champions League Final: 360 million television viewers
2015 NFL Super Bowl: 114.4 million television viewers
The NFL, the most watched sport in the U.S., has been trying for years to break into the global marketplace with very little success. The world is just not interested in our modern-day-helmeted gladiators. In fact, football is now on the decline in the United States (I will save the reasons for another article), so things are not looking too good for NFL globalization. At the same time, soccer is still struggling mightily to get a foothold (no pun intended) in America, one of the world’s biggest sports marketplaces. The combination of these factors has left the door open for another sport to enter the realm of global domination: basketball.