What of the NWSL and Bundesliga?

Featured / Recent News / Soccer Analytics / USA / October 2, 2015

Conversation. That’s what seems to make the world go ’round now. There are multiple platforms that allow anyone to talk about almost anything. Reddit is one of the more popular ones. If you don’t know what it is (let’s be real, I didn’t know what it was until I started writing for TFE), it’s a place where people start threads using their own opinions or by linking to other articles or information. Or, as they put it, it’s “the front page of the internet”.

What started this whole hair-brained idea was a Reddit thread. User AccountforM posted that the “NWSL has had more viewers than the Bundesliga on FOX Sports 1 this season.” Underneath this, he or she posted links to viewership.

According to the statistics posted, the Portland Thorns versus the Chicago Red Stars had 91,000 watching, while Frankfurt versus Wolfsburg only had 50,000 viewers on Aug. 9. Numbers grew with date change from Sunday to Friday and Saturday for the following week. Different teams, arguably better known, also played. The Houston Dash versus the Seattle Reign brought in 136,000. On Aug. 23, Ingosltadt versus Dortmund saw 129,000 viewers.

Americans are actually watching soccer! Three cheers!

Americans are actually watching soccer! Three cheers for them!

Of course, which teams are playing and when the games are played either aided or hurt viewership. However, the argument here is not whether one is more popular than the other; it is about the growth of soccer. For now, the NWSL’s numbers should only be compared to their growth. This is something difficult to do because they are only in their third year. (If you have any suggestions of how to compare, let me know in the comments. Seriously).

One user, HiSoArshavin, made an interesting point: “What would be more interesting would be if all of the seasons [football, European soccer and basketball] played at the same time; what would be the viewership? This would be a much better indicator of a ‘true’ fan base.”

How exactly would this play out?

We can only speculate at this point; however, it looks like soccer would come closer to the top of the list than you think. The Harris Poll is a yearly poll that looks directly at what sports Americans are watching. In 2014, it surveyed 2,225 U.S. adults between Dec. 10 and 15. Surprisingly (or maybe not), men’s soccer sat at no. 6 with six percent of the surveyed watching. Professional football is way at the top with 32 percent of viewers, but that number is slowly decreasing.

NWSL Championship Final saw 13,264 people in the stands. That's quite a few.

NWSL Championship Final saw 13,264 people in the stands. That’s quite a few.

Up until 2014, women’s soccer had less than 0.5 percent watching. This was the first year it had a higher audience, rising to 1 percent. Again, an increase; slow, but an increase.

Now, why are these statistics helpful?

We can simulate what might happen if all of the sports were to play at one time. The question the researchers asked was specific: “If you had to choose, which ONE of these sports would you say is your favorite?” Therefore, we can assume that the same audience would choose the same sports if all of them were playing at the same time.

It would be chaotic, yes. However, we can assume that football and baseball would dominate the ratings and that soccer would fall behind, based on the statistics. They would not be completely forgotten, though.

If we look at demographics (characteristics of who is watching), then we find slightly different answers. When it comes to professional football, only 25 percent of millennials say that it is their favorite. Baseball is even lower with only 12 percent. According to Ad Week, 16 percent of millennials are more interested in soccer than any other age group. It’s a good sign.

That’s a lot of data. Let’s bring this back home.

Maybe it’s more about marketing. Los Angeles FC will make its debut in 2018. However, they’re blowing the dust off of the typical marketing strategy. Shockingly enough, millennials don’t want to be talked at, but talked to. LAFC realized this early on and plan to create a conversation rather than a bunch of advertisements.

“We want to engage and have a conversation. That’s key,” said Rich Orosco, club marketing director, in a Los Angeles Times article.

LAFC more than a club. They want to be fully integrated with the new generation: design, conversation and music.

LAFC wants to be more than a club. They want to be fully integrated with the new generation: design, conversation and music.

And you know what? That’s brilliant.

The idea for this article came from a conversation. It’s continuing a conversation about who is watching soccer. It doesn’t really matter about what the actual TV ratings are; it’s the fact that those TV ratings are growing along with the overall percentage of people favoring soccer, including women’s soccer, over other popular sports.

Karah Hollis
Writer and Social Mediaer, Manchester United is life, brand new NYCFC follower (only for Jeb Brovsky), occasionally cheer for the Montreal Impact, and of course I love the USA National teams.

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