How is soccer trending in the United States? Anecdotally, it seems like the World Cup is generating a lot more interest here this year than it did when it was hosted here twenty years back.
I'm not seeking opinions ("I think it's a lot more popular, and so does my pet lizard!") as I already have my own one of those to not trust. My question is this:
Are there any metrics that can indicate whether US interest in soccer is rising faster than just the rate of US population growth?
I'm open to any source of data that might reasonably be measured against a baseline:
- Growth rate of participation in soccer leagues over time vs. other sports
- Soccer equipment gross sales vs. that of other sports
TV ratings struck me as one good proxy, but just going off TV ratings may be tricky, due to confounding factors - Sunday's US vs. Portugal match was watched by 25 million people in the US, beating out the previous record for a soccer game (1999 Women's World Cup final) by about 7 million viewers. It also beat out viewership of the latest World Series and the NBA Finals, by about 10 million viewers each. And US TV ratings for the 2014 World Cup are ~50% greater than they were for the 2010 World Cup. But... that World Cup was in South Africa, which was 6 hours later than New York, and 9 hours later than LA. Plus, the US wasn't in the hyper-competitive "Group of Death", with no Ronaldo star power to keep casual fans glued to their TVs.
TV ratings may help to determine a general trend for football's (soccer's) popularity in the United States, but can anyone find or point me toward other stats that may paint a more complete picture?