Global Sports: What Made the Cut, What Didn’t
America is the focal point, we like to think, of the best professional sports in the world. We have the land, money and culture to back major professional franchises, for the most part (just don’t ask Atlanta losing the NHL Thrashers or Los Angeles with the Raiders AND Rams).
This got us thinking, what sports are making waves off of American shores? Well, what do we know?
- American football is American football, and won’t be an international sport. Why? It’s a cultural thing, but you need the facilities and money to get equipment and time on the field. But, English people were intrigued when the NFL held games in London at Old Trafford (the home of the English soccer club Manchester United).
- The NBA is making a concerted effort to expand its brand abroad and is banking on the success of national teams and especially the Euroleague. NBA has the most potential among the major American sports, especially with an Indian owner in Sacramento.
- Baseball is mostly a Western Hemisphere phenomena, with an influx of Caribbean, Venezuelan or Latin American players populating the American-based Major League Baseball. Oh, Japan and South Korea have some good players in the majors, too.
- Hockey is a big deal in Russia and Canada, with some die-hard fan bases in the U.S. in cities like Pittsburgh, Boston, Buffalo and Detroit.
But, soccer is the international sport because it is easy to get a field, dirt or not, and a ball with some goal markers. Most sports are tougher to get equipment and playing time on specific fields. Soccer is growing in popularity in the U.S. with the growth of the American Major League Soccer (MLS), with expansion teams Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact and now Orlando City FC. Attendance has increased 15% in the US from 2011-2012 but dipped slightly this past season.
Other sports are making inroads, but overall, soccer is the international sport. The attention put toward the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League and the European leagues like La Liga in Spain, Barclays Premier League in the United Kingdom, Italy’s Serie A and Bundesliga in Germany shows that soccer is here to stay.
And we have Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to thank for that.