MLS equal in popularity to MLB among youth, study shows



MLS is just as popular as MLB among the youth demographic, a new ESPN poll conveyed. Could Americans finally be embracing soccer? American Major League Soccer? It looks like Major League Baseball is no longer the only game going in the summertime now.

It’s funny, because the critics of both MLS and MLB have the same exact complaints: “it’s boring!” “Slow pace.” “No scoring!”

Whether these two sports bore or excite you, or something in between, that’s in the eye of the beholder. But I do know this: Major League Baseball definitely gets way more media attention than it deserves. And MLS is under-served by the press.


I find it absolutely ludicrous that I have to endure live tweets of preseason baseball in my Twitter timeline right now. And spring training highlights on the nightly sports shows. Can you imagine a day when MLS preseason scrimmages received this level of coverage?

I’ve been saying for years that it amazes me how poorly baseball stories do when it comes to web traffic. I’m basing that on how my MLB stories do when picked up and linked by larger, higher traffic websites than this one. Baseball routinely bombs in this department. Given that, I’m actually surprised MLS hasn’t passed up baseball in more demographics.

It’s only a matter of time. This is a World Cup summer, so that will add momentum to this trend.

In the ESPN survey, both leagues claimed 18% of 12- to 17-year-olds as avid fans of their sport.

The ESPN Sports Poll Annual Report, managed by Luker on Trends, interviews 1,500 Americans per month and tracks interest in 31 different sports. In 2012, the poll determined soccer was America’s second-most popular sport for those aged 12-24, ahead of NBA, MLB and college football. The NFL led the poll with 39 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds saying they are avid fans. The NBA, college football and college basketball were all over 23 percent. The current poll was released on the eve of MLS’s 19th season.


Again that doesn’t surprise me, seeing Major League baseball behind all of those other leagues/sports. What surprises me is how MLB gets saturated by the media at such a level exceeding the interest in the sport.

Like Brad Daugherty told me “the NFL slaughters everything,” but the #2 in media attention is probably baseball. Which is ridiculous. There used to be an idea of baseball and pro football battling it out to be the national past time. Now the NFL is in a class way above everything else and MLB has a new rival in the MLS to be the American past time during the NFL off-season.

Kind of like how NHL hockey fans will TELL YOU INCESSANTLY whenever hockey beats the NBA in attendance or ratings or anything like that. There’s a healthy rivalry there between the NHL and NBA to be winter’s past time, even though basketball is and always will be light years ahead.


And yes, I know this is just one demographic we’re talking about.

I’m sure baseball slaughters MLS among the older generations. Look at what’s advertised during MLB broadcasts for verification of that. However, like Whitney Houston said “I believe the children are the future.” So expect MLS to keep growing and pass up Major League Baseball in popularity in the years, or maybe decades ahead. English Premier League has A LOT to do with this. The Fox Sports 1, but more importantly the NBC Sports contracts for the BPL television rights in America are growing the game here and MLS is clearly benefiting from that.

Paul M. Banks owns The Sports, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent analyst on news talk radio; with regular segments on ESPN,NBCCBS and Fox. A former NBC Chicago and Washington Times writer, he’s also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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  1. Cool story bro

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