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Here’s a controversial statement: Soccer is the best sport in the world. If you’re reading this article, you likely agree with this statement, but how can we convince those who are coming from other sports to even consider the argument as valid?
There’s no single argument that can convince you or prove that soccer is actually the best sport on the planet. This is why this entire text is dedicated to answering the question of what makes soccer the best sport in the world. Here are our 15 arguments that should be more than enough to convince anyone that soccer is where it’s at:
1. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world
A total of over 3.5 billion people have tuned in to see the last FIFA World Cup Finals, with 1.12 billion seeing the game live on their TVs. This still isn’t the entire soccer fan base: Estimations show that soccer has around 4 billion fans around the world, which is more than half of the Earth’s population.
Admittedly, there are more popular sports in the US, with football, baseball, basketball, and hockey all having a larger viewership base than the MLS. However, there’s a piece of data that commonly surprises sports fans across the US:
According to FIFA, there are more than 240 million active soccer players in the world and around 18 million of them in the US. For comparison, there were just over 5 million football players in the US in 2018. This data shows that soccer is not only the most popular sport in the world by viewership but also by active participants.
Is being the most popular sport in the world enough for soccer to be considered the best sport? Probably not, so let’s take a look at 14 more reasons that we find to be the key aspects that contribute to this title.
2. Soccer can be played anywhere
We don’t need a regulation soccer field to enjoy this game, as it can be played anywhere where there’s space. All you need is a ball, a couple of friends, and a few objects to use instead of goalposts. This is, in fact, how most of us first started playing soccer: For older millennials, our first real contact with the sport was on a bumpy field, with two trees as posts, and a ton of happy memories that came from running around those fields. We all remember the first AstroTurf that we played on, and the smell of rubber and artificial grass that lingered for hours on a hot summer day.
Another great thing about soccer is that it’s not a strictly indoor sport. Who among us wasn’t yelled at by their mom for kicking the ball around the house and braking, or almost braking, a vase? We’re not kids anymore, so, when the cold weather hits, we keep away from playing soccer in the house and move into the gyms and indoor soccer pitches to continue enjoying the game.
The fact that you can have access to the best soccer field in the country or be playing on a field in the middle of nowhere and have the same amount of fun shows that soccer is the best game in the world that we can enjoy anywhere. Everyone can play soccer, whether it’s in a mud pile behind their house, or someplace drier. The best thing is, everyone has a chance to succeed in soccer:
3. Everyone can play soccer
Soccer doesn’t discriminate based on religion, the color of the skin, gender, or any other feature that makes us physically different. Every talented player has an equal chance of succeeding, whether they’re coming from the slums of Argentina or from the fancy suburbs of London. When it comes to amateur players who indulge in soccer just for fun, the situation remains the same; everyone can play soccer:
Soccer is a game that doesn’t require much to be enjoyed in terms of talent; all you need is a positive attitude and a will to enjoy the game. Even the worst player on the planet can kick the ball around and have the time of their life out on the field.
Playing soccer also doesn’t require as much physical strength as some other sports. You can’t play football if you’re tiny, but for soccer, this can be an advantage. Just remember how tall Messi is, and he is one of the best players of all time. Even the rules of soccer aren’t confusing for new players; beginners can easily grasp the key concepts and rules with ease. Granted, some rules, such as the offside one, can take longer to fully comprehend.
One of the key reasons why soccer is the best sport in the world is the fact that it’s available to everyone, regardless of the amount of money they can spend on it. Playing this sport doesn’t require much in terms of investment; all you need is a soccer ball that a few friends can chip in a few bucks each to buy. On the other hand, you can also spend thousands of dollars on the latest and best soccer cleats and other equipment, if you feel so inclined.
4. National championships
Every nation in the world has its own soccer championship. For us, that championship is the MLS. Unfortunately, the MLS isn’t the most popular league in the world. Its popularity among Americans started rising when European players transferred here: Starting with David Beckham in 2007, more and more superstar European players have made the move to the MLS, attracting more viewers than this championship has ever had.
For most of the true soccer enthusiasts, following European national competitions is where it’s at. This all starts with England’s Premier League, arguably the best soccer league in the world. There’s also the Spanish La Liga with its El Classico, which might be the most highly anticipated soccer game of the soccer season. There’s always the German Bundesliga, as well as the Italian Serie A, both of which start in September and help us get through and dark winter months.
What can be better than closely following national soccer competitions? The answer, of course, is when the best teams from those competitions clash internationally.
5. International competitions
Whether it’s Olympic Games or the World Cup, as soccer fans, we eagerly wait for the 4-year period between these competitions to pass so we can see our national team battle the best teams that the world has to offer on the soccer field. In addition to these, soccer offers numerous sources of fun for every single one of its fans on a yearly basis: While some prefer watching their national team and league, there’s no competition that matches the popularity of the UEFA Champions League.
While regular soccer enthusiasts wait for a few selected international competitions, true fanatics have their year planned in advance based on when the competitions are played. They look forward to the UEFA European Championship, Copa del Rey, The Confederations Cup, FA Cup, Copa Libertadores, and numerous other competitions held across the planet.
International competition is why we love soccer and it is one of the things that doesn’t just make this port our favorite, but also the best one in the world.
We’ve already mentioned the European El Classico as one of the high points of every soccer season, however, it’s not the only match that we spend most of the year waiting for. There’s the MLS equivalent of this, commonly referred to as the California Classico: LA Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes. There’s also the game that even further slows down the traffic in the Los Angeles Area, the wittily named El Trafico between Los Angeles FC and LA Galaxy. Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas is another example of the MLS rivalry that we all love to witness.
The rivalry is what soccer revolves around. It is what both players and fans love and can’t wait for. Unfortunately, we’re treated to just a few of these games each season. Maybe that’s what makes them so special. Rivalry and competition is how we make progress as a society, whether we like this fact or not.
Even though the rivalry is something that outsiders might consider to be a downside, real soccer fans know this is not the truth. As many hooligans as are there to ruin these special games, there are at least ten times as many soccer fans who are just there to enjoy themselves. Real soccer fans are there to support their team, have a good time, and avoid getting in trouble.
7. Tradition and passion
Soccer is considered to be the number one sport in the world both in terms of the number of fans and in terms of their passion for the game. Sunday games have become a religion in their own right, and fans around the world spend the entire week anticipating those 90 minutes of play. Tradition and passion is what makes soccer the best sport in the world.
In many countries around the globe, you don’t get to choose your favorite soccer team – before babies are even born, their parents, most commonly fathers, have already bought them a jersey of their favorite team. That baby is brought up with the team from day one, which, inevitably, turns into a great passion once they grow up. It’s not uncommon to have multiple generations of the same team supporters in one family, especially in countries such as Argentina, Mexico, Spain, and England.
We’ve seen multiple generations of soccer fans who, dictated by tradition, have been following soccer their entire lives. This doesn’t only include following their favorite team’s games on TV, but also investing in season tickets, team merch, and spending countless hours on the bleachers both in the hottest and coldest conditions, cheering their team on, win or lose.
Soccer has had a really long time to develop as a sport and to build an immense follower base. The first official soccer club was Sheffield FC, and it was founded in England back in 1857. Just 16 years later, there were so many teams that the first official competition, the FA Cup, was started. The first World Cup game was played in 1930 in Uruguay.
However, soccer has been evolving long before the first club, the first competition, and the first World Cup games were played: Experts suggest that ball games similar to soccer as we know it today were played in the UK as early as 300 BC. Before that, similar variations of the sport have existed in Japan, as well as in ancient Greece and Rome.
Humankind has done a few things for as long as it’s been around. In addition to the basics such as hunting for food, we’ve always indulged in social games. One of those games is kicking the ball around. At first, that ball was made of straw, then out of animal intestines, until we’ve reached the point of making them out of artificial materials. Soccer is and has been for a few thousand years, built into human DNA.
Marketing has been a huge part of soccer for a couple of decades now. All major brands have invested in marketing through soccer, making both the sport and their brand more known. Without marketing, soccer, as we know it probably, wouldn’t exist. Why and how has marketing helped soccer become the best sport in the world?
The answer to this question is simple: Marketing experts saw the potential that soccer holds early and jumped to exploit it. Investing billions of dollars, they helped the sport reach its current popularity while ensuring that their investment pays off. There wouldn’t be a World Cup without marketing and sponsors, and those sponsors are in turn rewarded with numerous new customers that start using their services after first seeing them during a game.
The World Cup and international leagues aren’t the only marketing beneficiaries; all soccer clubs and most of the professional players are endorsed by big brands. Barcelona and Real Madrid have both receive over 200 million dollars from sponsors last year, which stands as proof of how effective using soccer for marketing purposes has become. Some national leagues even change their names to include and mention their main sponsor.
10. No age restrictions
You can be a five-year-old and enjoy soccer. You can also be living in a nursing home and experience the same amount of joy. There are no age limits when it comes to enjoying soccer, for the fans, as well as for the players:
Soccer has no age restrictions when it comes to the age of the players. In the US, the majority of professional sports have rules that forbid younger players from playing before reaching a certain age or specific criteria. Soccer players in the US are typically drafted out of college. All of this might be too late, as age restriction rules can significantly inhibit the player’s potential for growth.
European soccer has no such rules. That is why soccer teams are able to recruit players as soon as they show a spec of predisposition for the sport. Recruited as early as when they’re 12, soccer teams develop their talent and put them in a first-team game as soon as they are ready. This means that we can sometimes watch players that are no older than 17 years play alongside legends of the sport and kick their behinds.
The same applies to the other end of the scale; players can keep playing soccer as long as they feel adequate to. While the majority of soccer players reach the peak of their performance in their early twenties, some are late bloomers. Antonio Di Natale, Luca Toni, and even Zlatan Ibrahimovic all played their best after they reached the age of 30.
11. Soccer is a fairly safe sport
As with any other sport, injuries occur in soccer and they can be devastating. Still, research shows that soccer players are much less likely to be injured in the line of duty than their peers from other sports. Being a much less physical sport than football or hockey is one of the main reasons behind this.
The fact that injuries are less likely to occur in soccer is what makes it suitable for kids. According to Stanford’s research, around 88,000 kids aged 5-14 are hospitalized every year for soccer-related injuries. Almost 215,000 kids of the same age end up in an emergency room for injuries obtained while playing football every year. The research shows that soccer is safer than most sports, including cycling, baseball, softball, and skateboarding.
The situation is similar among adults: Research shows that there are around 10-35 injuries per 1,000 game hours in adult soccer among male players. For female players, that number drops down to 2-24 injuries per 1,000 hours of soccer played. For adult football players, that number is at 83 injuries per 1,000 hours of playtime.
This is why soccer players typically have a longer career than professional athletes in other sports. The average soccer player retires at 35, having played for 8 years. In football, which is a much more aggressive sport, the average career lasts for just 3.3 years.
If you’re torn between signing your kid up for soccer or football, there’s a clear winner here. Safety is just another one of the reasons we love soccer and consider it to be the best sport in the world.
12. Soccer games are relatively short and easy to follow
Soccer is not only undemanding to play, but it’s also an undemanding sport to follow. This, of course, applies to novice players and viewers who don’t care for advanced techniques and tactics and who are there just to have fun. Those who decide to delve deeper into the game have to spend years learning about soccer.
When it comes to watching a soccer game, they are relatively short and easy to follow, as the title of this paragraph states. A soccer game playtime is 90 minutes, which translates to around two hours of total watch time, including the halftime and added time. Most of the time, those 90 minutes are tense and action-packed. While two hours is not an insignificant amount of time to dedicate to watching a sport, soccer is one of the best sports in the world in terms of time economy:
A baseball game lasts for 3-4 hours, with less than 20 minutes of action. Spending this much time in front of a TV and not getting much in return can be considered wasteful by those who are not fans of baseball. All-in-all, soccer has become the most popular sport for a reason – the viewers appreciate the fact that the time they invest in watching soccer feels rewarding rather than wasted.
13. Soccer builds team spirit
A sense of community and belonging is not easy to instill in children, regardless of how much love we provide them as parents. Soccer is a thing that helps with that, both in children and adults. This sport teaches us how to function as a part of something that is bigger than ourselves and work with others to achieve a common goal (pun intended).
Soccer doesn’t only offer this benefit to the players, but to the fans as well. Coming together as one to support our favorite team has been a tradition that we’ve maintained for decades, all around the world. While wearing our teams’ colors, there’s nothing that separates us. It’s a thing that beats racism, hate, and prejudice. Soccer, and sport in general, builds friendships and connections that can last a lifetime, both among players and observers.
Even watching soccer at home can be a bonding experience. Those of us who grew up watching soccer with our fathers know just how close this sport has brought us with them. While individual sports can be fun, they can never be even remotely thrilling as the feeling you get when you’re playing, and winning, as a team.
Soccer, and most other sports for that matter, is a great way to get the kids used to physical activity, form work habits, and set them up for success in other life fields.
14. Soccer is connected to the gaming world
Every major sports franchise in the US is represented in the gaming world. NBA, NFL, and NHL have all become extremely successful games, but there’s no MLS representative among them. Due to the number of leagues involved in the global soccer scene, making a game-specific to a single one just doesn’t seem reasonable. This is why games such as FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer exist; they connect the world of soccer with the gaming world, and they include all of the major national and international soccer leagues. Both of these games have seen more than 20 different iterations, each more popular than the previous one.
The popularity of games such as FIFA and PES can be credited to the overall popularity of the sport. In the same vein, soccer as a sport owes these games a debt of gratitude for the thousands of new players and viewers that they’ve brought to real-world soccer.
These games have brought fun and joy to millions of people, and taught an insane number of players to love soccer: There are currently over 37.6 million people playing the already old version of FIFA and 5.1 million Pro Evolution Soccer players, and we can safely say that they can all be counted as fans of soccer.
15. Soccer is more than just a game
There’s one reason why soccer is the best sport in the world, and it unites all of the previously listed ones: Soccer is more than a game – it’s a lifestyle. There are millions of people who’ve dedicated their entire lives to soccer, and not all of them are players or otherwise professionally involved with the sport. Millions of soccer fans literally live for the sport, and they do so because it fulfills their day and their soul.
Soccer has the ability to unite the most different people, it unites different communities, and has been at the forefront of inclusion, intersectionality, and humanity for decades. This is a sport in which the poorest country in the world can run circles around the one with the most resources. It’s also a sport that provides talented players who are coming from either of those countries with a chance to succeed and make a name for themselves while giving the fans endless hours of fun and joy.
Soccer has given us all so much, and it asks nothing in return, except for a few hours of our time. The majority of us never have to spend a penny for the privilege of watching some of the best athletes in the world perform and compete against each other. This is what makes soccer the best sport in the world.