#operascores: From zero to financial powerhouse
So what brought U.S. Soccer back from the brink?
One might argue increases in the immigrant and Latino/Hispanic populations are fueling the incredible growth of Major League Soccer. Indeed soccer is from a world perspective the world's sport of choice, and it would follow that newcomers would continue supporting the sport stateside. However, until recently, MLS has not been taken seriously on the world stage. And the die hard sports fans I know keep cheering their team (with their TV's and money), regardless of where they are currently living. Plus, there are these statistics.
- While the immigrant population has grown significantly since 1980, their percentage of the U.S. population only increased from 11.% to 13.3% from 2000-2014.
- 66% of MLS fans identified as White compared to 34% Hispanic and 8% Black in 2013 (other racial groups were not included).
Other statistics on MLS demographics
- In 2015, Major League Soccer had the most young viewers in their demographics, with 14% of fans being in the 2-17 age demographic.
- Millennials make up approximately 44% of average MLS event attendance. (Though the age group does not report going "frequently", the article provides no definition for what constitutes "frequently".)
Take into account that the Pew Research Center, in 2015, projected the millennial generation (18-34) to be the largest living generation in the US, and you have a powerful consumer demographic. Companies are now well aware of Millennials buying power, but the MLS started it's growth pattern in the early 2000's. Millennials weren't yet a targeted market group in the economy.
At least, companies weren't directly targeting Millennial dollars. U.S. Soccer had been targeting the group for years.
Below, you'll see a graph showing the growth of registered U.S. Soccer youth players. In 1980, less than a million kids were participating in U.S. Youth Soccer nationwide. In 1988, the international governing body of soccer, FIFA, awarded the USA the hosting of the World Cup 1994 on the condition that U.S. Soccer invest in the growth of the sport, including youth soccer. The next decade showed incredible growth, doubling the the number of kids who played organized soccer outside of school.
So .......... All of those kids were Millennials!!
Add the fact that 81% of Millennials participated in some form of athletic activity throughout their schooling years, versus the 73% of all American adults and no wonder MLS took off in the early 2000's; the first kids to benefit from soccer outreach are now adults entering the world of consumerism. As the generation's buying power increases, they continue investing in what they enjoyed as kids. And the sport's growth isn't slowing down. MLS has released plans for expansion teams through 2020. Evidence that conscious investment into youth outreach brings positive financial outcomes.
Hey, Opera! Let's leave some big ol' footprints in wet cement!
Next article: what is opera doing already when it comes to youth outreach?