They said it couldn’t be done: Soccer makes it in America

Red, white, and blue card.
Red, white, and blue card.
Image: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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You may have heard that soccer is America’s sport of the future.

But it’s turning out to be the sport of the summer.

This summer, more than 330 hours of international football tournament play will be broadcast on US television. One major tournament—the Copa America—is hosted in stadiums across the country, with the US team in the quarterfinals tonight. The women’s national soccer team is aiming for nothing short of gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic games in August. More people will attend a Major League Soccer game than spectate at an NBA court or NHL rink. And that’s all before global leagues return to TV in the fall.

The children of the 1990s soccer moms have grown up, and soccer is taking its place among the titans of US sports business. The heady cocktail of US soccer has many ingredients, from demographic change to youth culture to the internet’s devastation of the media business. We explore them all in this week’s episode:

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In this episode, we talk about America’s changing attitude toward soccer with Matt Besler, a defender for the US men’s national team and Sporting Kansas City, and Crystal Dunn, a forward for the US women’s national team and the Washington Spirit. We also talk to John Guppy, who runs Gilt Edge, a soccer marketing agency, about attracting the sponsors whose revenue make real investments in the sport possible.

For more info on the secret history of US soccer, check out this Slate story by Brian Phillips.

And after you listen to this episode, give us some clues for what you want to see in future episodes. Who else is doing the impossible? Tell us on Twitter, or e-mail us.

Actuality is a joint production of Quartz and Marketplace. Every two weeks, we’ll explore the inner workings of the new global economy.