I would venture to guess that more people worldwide bet on soccer than any other sport. Although, I admit I have no idea how soccer and the NFL compare in this regard, but it seems like soccer's global popularity would make it the most popular sport in the world to bet on. Just, another characteristic that feels so, I don't know, American. So, the question becomes why is the average American sports fan, who is by and large also interested in some form of sports betting, at best uninterested in soccer? Actually, I would say many American sports fans are completely repulsed by the game.
Now, I am not writing to champion the cause of soccer in the United States but more to wonder out loud why it is that the sport has had such a difficult time carving out even a significant niche. In the interest of full disclosure: Obviously, I am a fan of the game or likely I wouldn't be spending the time writing this. I love watching it, and I love playing it. But, I am also an average American sports fan.
I am aware of the usual arguments: The sport is too slow. Nothing happens for an hour and a half. They can play for that long and nobody wins. The teams rarely score. However, we are still fascinated by a 2-0 pitcher's duel in baseball and, people pay good money to watch guys walk around a golf course chasing a little white ball. Even as fast as NASCAR drivers drive, they still essentially just drive in a circle with only a handful of lead changes before the race ends. Sure there are a few crashes, but I don't think real NASCAR fans watch for the accidents.
So what is it about soccer that has caused it to fail, and maybe more interestingly, can this problem be solved? Is Major League Soccer, as currently constructed, the answer? Can this league make soccer matter? Is MLS even something that can survive the long term or is it doomed like its predecessor the North American Soccer League?My opinion: MLS will survive the long term, provided it stays the course of patience. And, MLS will make soccer matter more, but how much more depends on us. It all depends on the average American sports fan.