The FIFA World Cup in Qatar this winter ended in what many argued was the greatest World Cup final ever. Argentinian legend Lionel his head-to-head with Messi and France’s next generation star Kylian his Mbappe was decided on the nail. – A scathing round of penalty kicks.
It was a football lover’s dream championship, and its scope went far beyond the usual football fandom. In the United States, a country notorious for its indifference to the world’s most popular sport, 25 million people attended the final, second only to the 2015 Women’s World Cup final which attracted 26.7 million viewers. , making it the second most watched football match in the country.
On Tuesday, the Vail Symposium invited Neil Buethe, Chief Communications Officer of the United States Soccer Federation, to discuss football’s development in the United States and how the momentum of the World Cup is spurring football’s growth at home. I attended a virtual talk about
Butte, who has been in touch with the federation since 2006, noted increased involvement in football across the United States during his tenure, but there was no direct relationship between team performance and public interest. said that there is
He cites the men’s team’s surprising performance in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, only to be eliminated in the first round in 2006. It was his first year as manager of the federation’s content. The wave of acerbic players coming in from fans after the knockout was warmly received as an indicator of high passionate engagement with the game.
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“People were angry,” Buethe said. “They were emailing us, yelling at us, leaving phone messages, finding ways to reach out to tell them that wasn’t enough. We were like, ‘This is great! People.’ does care!
The men’s team advanced to the round of 16 in 2022, better than many analysts expected, but what Buethe stood out for the younger side was that players weren’t satisfied with their performance. . They want to win the entire tournament and the federation knows it’s the level of performance needed to expand the sport’s influence.
“We want to continue to perform at the highest level, so that more fans are on board, more fans help us earn money, and we give back to the game, and this complete cycle will allow us to keep moving forward. Beat the best teams in the world,” said Buethe.
In the United States, meanwhile, interest in women’s football is booming and that trend is expected to continue as the national team seeks a third consecutive World Cup title in Australia and New Zealand this summer. Emphasizing that the team’s dominance has made many women’s footballers famous, Boutte said the United States has developed a strategy to invest in women’s football, which is now being replicated in Europe and South America. rice field.
Of the 211 countries sending teams to the men’s World Cup, only 187 send women’s teams, and only 70 are actively investing in women’s programs, Buethe estimates. doing. With the United States demonstrating the influence and popularity of its high-performing women’s national team, he hopes more countries will wake up to the enormous opportunities for growth that the women’s game offers.
“Think of all the countries in the world that can take that step, and that’s what we’re really trying to showcase,” said Buethe. “Our women’s national team has a lot of our attention, and if they recognize it, it could be the same. And if every country in the world did, the women’s game could take a leap forward, and it would be great to watch.”
The momentum building with the 2022 Men’s World Cup and the 2023 Women’s World Cup is a streaming platform that makes it easy for US viewers to watch matches in different time zones and for people to stay connected with players throughout the year.
All this progress in football fandom is building towards what Buethe believes will be a major turning point for the sport in the country, with the 2026 Men’s World Cup taking place in North America for the first time since 1994. . The 1994 tournament was the most-attended FIFA event in FIFA history at the time, and the 2026 tournament will be held after FIFA voted to expand from the current 32-team layout to a 48-team starting bracket. It will be the biggest tournament in FIFA history.
Buethe envisions football’s growth in the United States as driving investment, sporting success, viewership and revenue streams, and sees a future that’s as popular at home and around the world.
“This is a huge opportunity for the sport,” said Buethe. “Our vision with US soccer is to make soccer the preeminent sport in America. The event has the potential to have a lasting impact on sport in this country and everyone is paying attention to it.”