At a recent dinner party with family friends, World Cup Soccer was the sole topic of conversation. The specifics ranged from how the USA was going to get out of the group of death to how Clint Dempsey was our savior. To the dismay of many of the party attendees, I posed a question “before this World Cup had you heard of any of the players on the roster, other than perhaps previous World Cup participants”. Of the roughly 20 people to whom I posed this question, only one had a passing knowledge of U.S. Major League Soccer and its players. , One other person had heard of the now Internet sensation, Tim Howard. That person happened to be a fan of Everton for some reason. While I do not pre suppose that my group of 20 was a perfect proxy for the greater American population, I would venture to say it was directionally representative. Given the lack of prior interest or engagement with the professional sport of soccer in the U.S., it was puzzling to me that every game involving the American team garnered a greater viewership than the final game of the World Series by a significant margin. Certainly some of this is attributable to national pride. After all the World Cup is an international forum, so it was the entire U.S. nation rooting for our team against, you name it– Germany, Ghana, Portugal, Belgium. I do believe in the growing popularity of soccer in the U.S.; but I also believe that baseball’s popularity is waning. A recent poll done by ESPN concluded that MLS and MLB are equally popular with 12 to 17 year olds. Eighteen percent of this age cohort considers themselves avid fans. Baseball continues to fall further behind the NFL in popularity. In a 2008 Gallup poll, 41 percent of those polled said that football was their favorite sport, but only 10 percent said baseball was.
The 2012 World Series had the lowest ratings of any world series ever, with 2013 only slightly improved. In 2012, the market shares for the series was 12 percent of the TV viewing population compared with ratings consistently double or triple that as recently as the late 90’s The MLB has made several attempts to boost its popularity in recent year. One example of that is the recent amendment to the wild card playoff spot. While I love Baseball, and the Cardinals, it may well be waning as the all American pastime. This may be hard for Cardinal fans to believe, as we are second only to Philly fans in the percentage of folks who consider themselves “avid fans”. But then again, the Cardinals have almost twice as many avid fans as does the national average.