Soccer – football outside of the United States – is one of the most popular sports in the world. The sport’s origins trace back to the second half of the 19th century in Britain. Prevalent in Europe and South America, the sport has enjoyed a growing popularity among Americans. The number of soccer players in the U.S. has steadily increased since 2009, rounding up to almost 15 million in the spring of 2015, the highest number to date. More teenagers are playing soccer in the U.S. than ever before. The number of participants in U.S. high school soccer programs has recorded an all-time high in the 2014/15 season, with over 800 thousand boys and girls playing the sport across the country.
The women’s national soccer team performance in the last decade is one of the reasons the sport’s popularity has risen in the U.S. The women's national soccer team is currently considered the best women’s soccer team in the world, according to FIFA. They have won a total of three FIFA Women's World Cups, four Olympic women's gold medals, and ten Algarve Cups. The men’s national team, on the other hand, is not as successful as the women’s team, ranking mid tier in FIFA’s world rank.
Major League Soccer (MLS) is the main professional soccer league in North America, and has seen its popularity rise over the past few years. Attendance at MLS games has improved from around 1.8 million in the spring of 2008 to three million in the spring of 2015. Average per game attendance at MLS games stood at around 21 thousand, which is more than the NBA and the NHL average game attendance. When comparing average MLS game attendance to other soccer leagues around the world, the North American league is still far behind. For example, the German Bundesliga, the best attended soccer league in the world, has an average of 43 thousand fans per game.
The Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy are two of the most prestigious teams in the MLS. They lead the league in revenue, 50 million U.S. dollars and 44 million U.S. dollars respectively, as well as in team value. LA Galaxy is the only team with five MLS Cup trophies. Players such as David Beckham and Landon Donovan, considered one of the best American soccer players of all-time, were part of the LA Galaxy roster in the past.
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