The US may be late to the soccer party — so late that we have a different name for it than the rest of the world — but we’re certainly playing catch-up.
A Gallup poll released earlier this year found that seven per cent of Americans pick soccer as their favorite sport to watch, making it the fourth most popular sport in the country — and growing numbers have it on track to overtake baseball as the third most popular in the next few years.
These aren’t just casual fans, either. Some are willing to travel from all over the country to see a game, shelling out big bucks to catch their favorite international teams in action when they come over stateside for a match.
Score! According to a 2018 Gallup poll, soccer is on track to become the third most popular sport in the US
Superfans! US-based Manchester City fans were out in full force for the team’s match against FC Bayern Munich this weekend
The seven per cent of Americans who favor soccer above other sports may not seem large in number, when in many other countries fútbol takes the number one spot.
But the sport is only beat out by American football (37 per cent), basketball (11 per cent), and baseball (nine per cent) — and it’s just two percentage points behind baseball, once considered as American as it gets.
Hockey is at just four per cent.
What’s more, four of the five top sports saw decreases in popularity from a similar poll four years earlier — and only soccer saw an increase of three percentage points.
Clearly, soccer fandom in the US is growing, especially among younger fans. Of Americans age 18 to 34, 11 per cent said soccer was their favorite, tying it with basketball and inching it ahead of baseball.
The fandom is growing in spite of the fact that the US isn’t exactly known for its world-class teams — yet.
Dedication: Fans of both teams traveled to Miami for the game on Saturday
Reaching the kids: The sport has especially grown more popular in the US with younger fans
Victory! To the delight of the team’s dedicated fans, Manchester City won 3-2 in the match against FC Bayern Munich (Man City player Oleksandr Zinchenko is pictured)
Luckily, European football clubs are taking advantage of the growing popularity in the US, as are brands like Heineken, which is presenting the International Champions Cup this summer.
The beer giant has been involved in soccer for decades, and is now watching and participating in growing the sport’s fandom in the US.
During the ICC, teams are traveling stateside for matches in cities like Minneapolis (Next up: Tottenham vs. Milan on 7/31), New York (Real Madrid vs. Roma on 8/7), and Arlington, Texas (Barcelona vs. Roma on 7/31).
On Tuesday, Manchester City’s long-time rivals Manchester United face off against Spanish side Real Madrid at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami — where Man City bested FC Bayern Munich 3-2 over the weekend.
American Man City fans certainly made the effort to be there, including several who aren’t even from the Miami area.
Chris Shea, 24, traveled all the way from Durango, Colorado with his girlfriend Jessica for the match, driving a whopping 2,287 miles — over 500 miles of which they had a dog in the car with them.
How far they’ve come! Chris Shea, 24, traveled all the way from Durango, Colorado with his girlfriend Jessica for the match, driving 2,287 miles in all
Lifelong fan: They even had a dog in the car for part of the 35-hour trip, and spent around $1,500. Chris has been a fan since playing video games with his brother as a little kid
‘We traveled from Durango down to Hobbs, New Mexico, which was a nine-hour drive, to drop off my dog so she would be safe,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘And then we drove from Hobbs all the way down to Miami, which was another 2,000 miles, almost.’
All in all, they spent about 35 hours in a car for the match, and splashed around $1,500 on the trip and tickets.
Chris said he’s been a Man City fan since he was six, when he would play FIFA with his brother – who was a devoted Manchester United fan.
‘He was always United, and I always picked City because they were blue and that was always my favorite color. And they always had a sick team. I just always liked them when I was little,’ he said.
But while he has always picked the team as his side in video games, and has bought 13 Man City jerseys over the years, this was Chris’s first chance to actually see the players in action.
‘We’ve never seen them play. This was my ultimate dream, to see them play,’ he said.
Finally! Keith Russell, 52, flew in from,Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where he works for the US government as a teacher. He’s been a fan since the ’90s but this was his first game
Meanwhile Keith Russell, who is originally from Flint, Michigan, didn’t travel quite as far to see his team win — though his journey was certainly on the more unique side.
Keith, 52, currently lives on Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where he works for the US government.
A self-confessed ‘huge’ Man City fan, he made special plans to be in Miami to see the team play this weekend, flying over 500 miles to be there and support his team.
‘I saw [the match] was going on, and I knew I had to come into Miami for something else, so I planned it for this week,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘I spent a lot of money. So far, I’m out about two grand.’
Keith was first turned on to the team in the late ’90s after becoming a fan of British band Oasis.
‘They go hand in hand, so I started following the Premier League and I chose Man City as my team,’ he added.
He’s had several kits for years, but stocked up on even more merch at the game, including stuff for his daughter and son Nicholas, who is also a fan.
This is also the first game ever for Keith, who said it was such a ‘huge deal’ that he couldn’t even sleep the night before.
‘This will probably be it for me, I don’t know if I’ll ever see another one,’ he said. ‘But at least I’ll die happy ’cause I’ve seen one!’