It’s fair to say that the US hasn’t fully grasped the concept of soccer. The world’s biggest sport is gradually making inroads in North America, but it’s nowhere near as popular as its American counterparts. That’s because some of the elements are foreign to US fans in more ways than one.
Before soccer can be fully embraced by its fraternity across the pond, we need to become more familiar with these features. At least then games won’t seem as bland. So, what are they and why do they matter?
The Role of Gambling
North America doesn’t have a culture of sports betting for obvious reasons, although that is changing as the region evolves. Still, it’s hard for Americans to understand how much the activity means to sports fans, particularly followers of soccer. In many ways, the activity provides a deep bond between clubs and fans as it encourages support. After all, supporters are more likely to tune in or attend in person if they place a wager. The same applies in the US, only in smaller numbers. Yet, 70% of Americans agree with the statement.
Gambling also adds to the mystery of legendary competitions, such as the FA Cup. This is because the long odds appeal to people who predict giant killings, something the competition has been staging since the late 1800s. The more they occur and reward bettors, the more people will gamble on the FA Cup, and the longer its aura will remain an important part of popular culture. Another feature that flies under the radar is the role of operators, such as Flutter Entertainment, at the grassroots level that invest in the health of the sport. Once fans recognize the gesture, they can’t be outraged.
These factors explain why independent guides are reporting increases in the number of applicants filing for licenses in the UK and its crown dependencies. SuperLenny, an independent and reputable site within the industry, revealed that the Isle of Man issued a total of 21 operating licenses in 2020, compared to just eight in 2019. Operators want a UK base as the healthy relationship between punters and bookmakers is very positive.
Promotion & Relegation
Unless something drastic happens, franchises remain in their respective leagues and can’t be relegated. In soccer, it works differently because the clubs in the lower divisions can take the place of teams above them. This is as true of the English Premier League as it is in Spain’s La Liga or the German Bundesliga.
🗣 “The clubs not involved want these six clubs to be kicked out of the Premier League.”
🗣 “Several American owners don’t understand why we have relegation.”@SkyKaveh reveals quotes from an unnamed board member of one of the top 6 clubs pic.twitter.com/TtgfygPXmn
The MLS follows the same strategy as its American counterparts, which is partly why it’s challenging for US supporters to adopt soccer like they do American football, baseball or basketball. However, it’s essential to the sport as it ties into the underdog story that fans love, especially in the UK. Leicester City FC is the ultimate case study because, after almost going bust and entering administration, the Foxes made their way into the EPL, winning it against all odds in 2016.
A boost in resources, financially and supporters-wise, inevitably kicked in as the entire country got behind the story. In the 2016/17 season, for example, the club recorded a $100-plus profit for the first time, while the number one tourism board reported an anticipated increase in numbers to the region due to the historic Premier League win.
Without these basics, the game wouldn’t be as huge globally. Maybe the US will adopt them in the future. If it doesn’t, it needs to think of ways to plug the gaps. Otherwise, soccer will never truly integrate.