What If Soccer Became as Popular as Baseball?

David Fazekas
What If?

About half the world's population, loves soccer. That’s 3.5 billion people. But in the U.S., the sport barely cracks the top five most popular. So we wondered, what if soccer, became America’s favorite past time?

No hands, no timeouts, nowhere near the popularity of other sports in America. Soccer is that ‘other’ football that just can’t make it past the youth leagues with American sports fans, often criticized for being a bit dull.

I think a lot of people just aren’t' familiar with the game,” said Jozy Altidore, striker for the U.S. National Soccer Team. “They don't know the basics of how it works. I think when it gets to that point I think it's going to be great because soccer is a great game to watch live.”

What’s not hard to understand is what would happen to ticket prices if soccer got as big as baseball. Right now, premium seats for a New York Red Bulls soccer match go for 200 dollars. With more fans lining up, tickets could reach the price of a New York Yankees game – a spot behind home plate goes for sixteen-hundred dollars.

And at those prices, fans would expect to watch a better product on the field.

You need stars. You need to have the guy that people will go to see,” said Bob Ley, from ESPN. “You need to have that theatrical attraction.”

But theatre on the field wouldn’t come cheap. Soccer stars would laugh at their current salaries, averaging $160,000 a year, and push for something in the ballpark of their baseball brethren’s paychecks, of more than $3 million dollars.

That’s if soccer became as popular as baseball. Which, could happen if by some miracle they were to win it all and bring home a World Cup.

If they won the World Cup, I think the nation would be gripped by that,” said Paul Crowder, director of the documentary, Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos.I mean when World Cup fever grips a nation, it completely takes over and the whole country just joins in. A victory in the world cup is like no other.”

Then again, World Cup in hand, the American sports landscape would change dramatically. Maybe the kids will swap their Derek Jeter jersey’s for Clint Dempsey’s.

I think there is ultimately room for soccer to be a major sport. But some of the other sports will have to give a little bit,” said Andrew Zimbalist, co-author of, National Pastime: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer. I think the NFL is coming under a lot of very serious scrutiny right now around concussions and other injury issues in regard to the sport. Another sport that might suffer in the United States anyway, is hockey.

“I think we should never drive to say we want to be as big as baseball or football or basketball,” said Jurgen Klinsmann, head coach of the U.S. National Soccer Team. “I think we just need to drive to have our own spot in this whole huge country with more than 300 million people.”

Host: Dan Kloeffler
Producer, DP: David Fazekas
Associate Producer: Stefan Doyno
Editor: Maurice Abbate