Soccer

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Girls Soccer on the Rise Following World Cup Moment

29 Jul, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Expected to Help Combat Surge of E-Sports

Maybe it’s a no-brainer. Maybe it’s an ‘of course’ moment.

Whatever it is, it’s good news.

According to an article in Forbes, girls soccer is on the rise since the spectacular performance of the U.S. Women’s National Team.

According to U.S. Youth Soccer, girls’ club soccer participation is up 37% in the last 20 years, while participation in high school soccer programs also has seen a boost of 45% between 1999 and 2014.

The National Federation of State High School Associations records similar gains. In fact, soccer has rarely left the top 10 sports at the high school level, according to its annual participation survey. And over on the Major League Soccer side, explosive gains are being made in the number of spectators.

“There is no question that we will be a beneficiary of this victory,” Ian McMahon, national executive director of the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), told Yahoo Parenting. “Anytime there is a success as high profile as this, with this record number of viewers, for us as an organization, we would expect to see a surge in young girls wanting to play soccer. We believe that, with what we offer, they’ll come in and want to play soccer longer and become advocates for the game.”

The news comes at a good time, says the Sports Fitness Industry Association, which noted that electronic gaming is being described as a ‘sport,’ and that many parents are buying into the phenomenon.

“There is a growing category of electronic gaming called ‘e-sports’, which is basically organized multi-player video competitions,” noted SFIA. “ This has become a huge industry with millions of participants.  Ironically, if you look at the list of the top 50 ‘sports’ (see list here), only two or three seem to be traditional sports or games.”

In a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, an organization is now calling its video gaming league the ‘Little League of Video Games.’ Brett Morris, COO of Super League Gaming, is also classifying this type of activity a sport.

But if kids are turning onto video games as a form of sport, it follows they’re watching TV. And that, says Forbes, might be what changes their minds about the difference between a joystick and an on-field experience.

Need proof? The U.S.’s recent win was the most-watched soccer event in the history of American television. The women’s match this year brought in around 23 million American viewers to its Fox broadcast, significantly more than the 17+ million viewers who tuned in to watch the men’s final just a year ago. It is unprecedented that a women’s sporting event would pull in that sort of viewership, as it blew other “elite” women’s sporting events like the Olympics and the WNBA Playoffs completely out of the water. The ratings are not even close.

Forbes notes that this proves the Women’s World Cup has joined the ranks of some of the biggest finales in sports, at least in terms of TV viewership. Game Seven of the 2014 World Series, for example, drew in 23.5 million viewers, the most of any game in the series, and Golden State’s clinching Game Six in this year’s NBA Finals – the most-viewed Finals since Michael Jordan was still in uniform – drew in a little over 23 million viewers, as well.

In other words, there is very little separating women’s soccer from some of the most prestigious and sought-after tickets in men’s sports right now. This is a huge leap, and it speaks volumes as to the strides the sport has made in popularity since the last time the U.S. women’s team won the World Cup in 1999.

This is expected to translate into more play at all levels – the rec, youth, school and travel team levels – as well as even on the adult side. That will translate into more competition and more demand for field time – and for facilities as well.

In fact, notes Forbes, “This all suggests that women’s soccer not only has cemented itself among the most popular sports in the country, but it also may have established itself as the go-to sport for girls looking for an activity that promises competitiveness, prestige and perhaps one day, international fame. At this point, it absolutely is on par with anything the men’s sports world has to offer and that is the first time anybody has been able to say that.”

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