There’s no doubt in the rising popularity and participation of soccer across North America, nor is there a lack of commentary on the issue either. What we want to know is; why does soccer in North America continue to be such an exciting market to be involved in?
To set the scene, sport and entertainment are ingrained in American culture, a culture which soccer steadily becomes a key touchstone of. So much so that it can now count itself as one the most popular sports in America, after basketball and American football. Participation numbers have been strong across youth soccer, with US Youth Soccer registering approximately 3 million players with a healthy 52:48 split across boys and girls respectively. Many of which will have aims to represent one of the hundreds of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) D1 colleges across the country and, if their talents permit, even be fully funded.
Canada’s Women may have beaten the United States in the 2021 Olympics semi-final, however, it’s been the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) that has dominated Women’s soccer in recent years, winning the previous two Women’s World Cups – the second of which included a win of 13 – 0 against Thailand, the highest score ever recorded in any World Cup, women’s and men’s. Many players compete in the professional National Women’s Soccer League and have made marquee moves to Europe’s leading leagues. CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) looks to capitalise on the continent’s growth by committing to launch a women’s Champions League across North America, Central America, and the Caribbean in 2023.
On the men’s side, the professional soccer landscape has aggressively expanded with Charlotte FC, St. Louis City SC, and Sacramento Republic soon to take the teams competing in Major League Soccer (MLS) from 21 (2016) to 30 over the next couple of years. In the second level league, United Soccer League (USL) boasts a growing 31 professional teams catering for soccer enthusiasts across all markets. The inception of the Canadian Premier League (2019) allows soccer fans in Canada to follow professional soccer that’s competed in, and represents, their home country. Teams in the Canadian Premier League include members: Atletico Ottawa (owned by Atletico Madrid), Forge FC and York United FC. The feat that is the Canadian Premier League is especially impressive considering Canadian teams continue to compete in the United States based NBA (National Basketball Association) and NHL (National Hockey League), sports which have been part of the fabric of Canada far longer than soccer.
Come 2026, Canada, the United States, and Mexico will co-host football’s most prestigious tournament, the FIFA World Cup. Having not exactly been the favourites in previous years, the recent growth in the sport across Northern and Central America suggests the host countries will be in a position to compete with the best, on the world stage. This home country advantage will be bolstered by the international playing experience of an increasing number of American players. Major European clubs have taken advantage of the emerging talent across North American youth soccer such as; Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Sergino Dest (Barcelona), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), and Christian Pulisic, the first American to appear in a Champions League final. Canada also has strong representation with Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich) and French champion, Jonathan David (Lille). Long gone are the days where North America was questioned whether it could develop a male soccer star.
Ultimately, soccer in North America is benefiting from a potentially incredible combination of: rapidly growing love for the sport, consistent production of world class talent across the men’s and women’s game, and players with an insatiable appetite to prove North American talent on the world stage. What excites us is the calculated growth of North American soccer organisations and their willingness to improve, taking advantage of the hard-earned experience and longevity of the wider North American sports communities. With the likes of Major League Baseball (MLB) franchises embracing big data and proprietary analytics platforms, and NBA implementing world-leading tracking and pose capturing technologies, the North American soccer community has a chance to truly flourish in the fervent soil that is the data-led, mature, sports scene of North America.
Soccer has always been labeled the “world’s only truly global sport” and, with the continued success and accelerating growth of the sport in North America, that label is becoming more and more accurate each day. The future of North American soccer promises to be rich, passionate and, one day, world-leading.