Nearly 20% of US sports fans now claim soccer is their favorite sport, highlighting the growing popularity of the sport in the United States, Ampere Analysis said in its latest report. Today, soccer is the fourth most popular sport in the country, a figure that has grown rapidly from the last quarter of 2021.
The United States boasts a high proportion of avid female soccer fans (37%), compared to 31% among the big five Western European markets. Taken together, these findings bode well for the success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, now entering the semifinals, and Major League Soccer (MLS), with Lionel Messi having recently joined Inter Miami. With US soccer fans scoring high for affluence and propensity to pay for SVOD services, Ampere’s new report discusses how broadcasters will monetize the sport.
● THE BROADCAST OPPORTUNITY
US soccer fans are 43% more likely than average sports fans to have a household income of more than US$100.000, making this affluent audience a key target for broadcasters and rights holders, Ampere noted.
Crucially, the fanbase is passionate and willing to pay to indulge in their love of soccer: almost three-quarters (73%) of US-based fans of the Premier League and UEFA Champions League say they will pay to watch the competitions. Networks in the United States have honed in on this: in 2022, soccer broadcasting rights in the United States were worth over US$1.3 billion – three times more than in 2015.
Currently, interest in soccer competitions is dominated by global and European events. American fans most enjoy the FIFA World Cup (33%), the English Premier League (31%), and the UEFA Champions League (30%), with only 20% claiming to follow the MLS. Of course, the MLS will be hoping to boost this rising interest: alongside the global Apple TV deal signed in 2022, the League has welcomed Lionel Messi to Inter Miami, making the competition more appealing to those who prefer to watch top-tier players.
● THE DIGITAL OPPORTUNITY
Creating the right digital strategy will be vital to meet the viewing needs of American soccer fans, Ampere assures. According to the researcher, US soccer fans pay for more SVOD services than average and prefer to watch sports on streaming instead of broadcast TV.
Awkward kick-off times for the top European leagues mean they view comparatively less live sport than other US fan groups. As a result, they have high engagement rates with highlights and player content on social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube where they already have strong consumption rates.
According to Ampere’s findings, nearly half of US soccer fans say they only want to watch the sport via an online streaming platform. At the same time, more than half (54%) say they are most likely to view on a second home at home rather than the main TV set.
● TACKLING THE PIRATE CHALLENGE
With American soccer fans enjoying several competitions across multiple sports, content costs can quickly mount up. US soccer fans often cite price as their motivation for pirating sports channels. For soccer specifically, Ampere believes there is an opportunity to offer multi-league bundles to combat piracy.
“Understanding the consumption habits of US soccer fans is crucial for the broadcasters who want to curate and build appealing content around this behavior. There is a really strong opportunity here to combine the best of traditional broadcast with the capabilities of streaming services and social media to meet the appetite of these passionate fans. Ampere also believes that the challenges of piracy to avoid paying fees can be addressed through multi-league bundles to bring soccer fans all the content they can consume,” said Sam Nursall, Research Analyst at Ampere Analysis and the author of the report.