What: A new study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, as reported by the New York Times, finds that participation in youth soccer has fallen 14%.
Why it matters: It’s an alarming number that a football industry leader is aware of and is looking for ways to turn around. Playing instead of just watching is a key element of long-term fandom.
There was a time not so long ago when all of these trends in monitoring the growth of the sport at the youth level saw the decline of football, while a handful of sports, particularly football, were on a meteoric rise. One day the theory was that “The Beautiful Game” of football would surpass “The American Game” in popularity, and football would take its place in North America as it does in the rest of the world.
According to a story in the New York Times based on the latest figures from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, football, at least at the youth level, has seen an amazing and unexpected decline. According to Joe Drape“According to a study by the Association of the Sports and Fitness Industry, the proportion of 6 to 12-year-olds who regularly play football has fallen by almost 14 percent to 2.3 million players in the past three years.”) that has been analyzing youthful sporting trends for 40 years. The number of children who have touched a soccer ball even once a year, whether through organized play or otherwise, has also decreased significantly, ”with up to 600,000 youngsters losing participation.
The question remains whether this will lead to young people, especially young people and minorities of all origins, playing football.
As US football () is now going under due to his change in leadership Carlos Cordeiro ()The World Cup begins on the horizon in North America in 2026, and brands continue to invest in marketing the sport. Numerous elite clubs outside of the US open academies here to better develop young players. The sport seems to have had a new turning point, with Latino youth and general engagement in this demo the place where the sport can point to change.
The best news from the World Cup was the increasing engagements of Latinos across America during the Games. Mexico’s value as a brand has been strengthened by its success in the field and the expansion of its brand partners into the market. As we wrote last week, brands have found their way to social engagement better than ever with the digital engagement company Mitú.) Creating unique content for the Spanish and English speaking Latino fan. in addition, Liga MX is still the most watched soccer league in the USAll of this is very positive when it comes to showing Latino engagement through football.
In the coming weeks, many of the world’s elite clubs will be heading to the US, and La Liga will go to even greater lengths to expose its teams and partners, not just FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, to thousands of casual players and players dying tough football fans for the rest of the summer.
While all of this is positive and provides a clear path of engagement for an extended period of time by a fan and viewer for the Latino demo, the question remains whether This means that young people, especially young people and minorities of all origins, play football That gives them more of a lifelong affinity for the game. The Times story points to several factors related to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s study that indicate that marketing and engagement of young Latinos must change for this to happen.
Brad Rothenbergwho co-founded Soccer alliance () In order to develop amateur football among Latinos, US football has invested little in identifying talent in Latin American and African American communities. In the past decade, his organization has hosted more than 300 events for young players across the country, sending dozens of them to club teams in Mexico.
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“If US football continues to alienate Latinos and Blacks at every decision-making point year after year, we’ll sit on the sidelines and watch the rest of the world get better,” Rothenberg, co-founder of Alianza de Futbol amateur Latin football, told The Times .
Cost of the elite game, as the longtime American star pointed out Hope solo At a hashtag sports event in New York a few weeks ago, this also helps keep Latinos and minorities from getting involved. Solo was clear about calling the organizing groups of football too elitist and incapable of making the game affordable for everyone, which limits the pipeline for success.
Will USA Soccer and other global clubs step into this void to increase engagement among young people, particularly Latinos, who continue to show an affinity for the game? Opening academies to elite players is a small step that will build American star power, however Casual gamers have healthy activities and understand the game while playing on the field Watching it on a device or television is another important step. Are there brands that are turning more and more to the youth for engagement, like Toyota and Allstate did with Alianza de Futbol?
Other sports such as baseball and basketball have seen and made investments in youth participation in recent years, and the study showed that efforts produce positive results. Football apparently needs to find the next step in reversing a worrying trendand the numbers and results show that the Latino fan can be the next best move.
The World Cup gave us great best practices for engagement and value in the demo. Now leadership needs to use these best practices and add money and value to not just build young Latino stars for elite clubs and MLS, but healthy committed young players for life. Football at its base is a simple, affordable game. However, improper investment can prove costly, and the numbers confirm it.
Cover picture: Derek Jensen (Tysto)