Rich Luker, a social scientist who studies the latest trends in sports, says soccer’s rise to the top of the American sports pyramid is inevitable in a new interview with ESPN’s Roger Bennett.Here’s how Luker responded when asked how long it would take until soccer is as popular as baseball and basketball:
“We are talking generational change. A generation of kids have now grown up as having MLS as part of their reality. Give us one more cycle and that is all it will take. One more generation.”
Luker is the scientist behind a few ESPN studies — one of which concluded that soccer is America’s second-most popular sport among 12-24 year olds, and another that found Lionel Messi was the 16th most popular athlete in the US.
He spoke with Bennett in an excellent and meaty interview, and laid out an argument for why soccer is “like a rocket ship on the launchpad.”
- A ton of kids are playing it. There is at least one soccer player in 30% of American households.
- All the cool kids are fans. Says Luker: “Kids growing up today gain cache and social currency by knowing about the sport.”
- MLS has tremendous growth potential. 33 mill lion Americans described themselves as avid soccer fans, but only 7.2 million are avid MLS fans. Luker expects the MLS to close that gap, and rise the profile of US soccer in the process.
- Things can flip quickly. Baseball was as popular as the NFL in 1994, and now look at it.
So the clock is ticking, America.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.