Soccer Fans
Mike Koeshartanto

Soccer Fan Insights: Change in Soccer Fandom

In ongoing effort to inform fellow marketers and soccer stakeholders of the evolution of soccer fandom in the U.S., we occasionally release insights like the ones you’re about to read. Have questions or what more insights? Feel free to shoot us a note at

Take a second to think about what you know regarding soccer fandom in this country. The first thing likely to come to mind is that soccer fandom is growing both in overall numbers and passion. While this is certainly the case relative to five or 10 years ago, it doesn’t tell the complete story.

The following is true: soccer fandom today is greater than soccer fandom yesterday. We’ve seen an increase in pop culture references to the sports (ahem, Ted Lasso), athletes and celebrities are co-owners of teams at home and abroad, and more and more television networks and streaming platforms are bidding for the rights to valuable soccer properties.

The following is also true: while overall soccer fandom grows, many fans also lose interest in the sport. Why? There are a variety reasons we’ll get into later, but keep in mind that fandom is, well, complicated.

How has interest among soccer fans changed?

Entertainment options come and go and soccer isn’t immune to the ebbs and flows of how people choose to spend their free time. To better understand how fandom changes, we elicit feedback from fans in the way of an annual fan insight survey. In our most recent, conducted in Q4 2021, we asked fans to share how their fandom has changed – or not changed – in recent years.

As you can see above, 50% of fans indicated their fandom has changed positively and are more interested in the sport now than they had been previously. Alternatively, almost a quarter of fans indicated a negative change in interest. We’ll get into why that may be the case, shortly.

If you dive a bit deeper into demographic segments and the various answers to this question, there are some interesting insights. Among Millennials, 62% are more interested in soccer today than they had been previously – the most of any generation. This certainly shouldn’t surprise you given Millennials are soccer’s core audience. Following Millennials, Gen Y is next with 53% being more interested. At the bottom are Boomers, only 18% of whom are more interested now than previously. 39% of Boomers say they’re less interested in soccer today – the most of any generation.

When it comes to General Market versus Hispanics, 52% of General Market fans indicated they are more interested in soccer with 22% indicating being less interested. Within the Hispanic segment, 46% are more interested and 26% are less interested.

Elsewhere, 57% of Male fans are more interested compared to 38% of Female fans. 20% of Male fans are less interested, while 29% of Female fans are less interested.

What causes a decrease in soccer fandom?

We’ve written about how different demographic segments of fans view their fandom of soccer in recent years, but how could it possibly be that fandom for some has decreased?

Better understanding why there’s a decrease is important in helping industry stakeholders determine ways to approach prevention of fandom drop-off. However, in some instances, there’s no changing the inevitable. To reiterate, entertainment options come and go and soccer isn’t immune to the ebbs and flows of how people choose to spend their free time.

To gain insight into the drop-off, we provided respondents a list of nine potential reasons that may be contributors to decrease in fandom. From more interest in other sports to general sports fatigue or cost of viewing options to performance of favorite teams, there are a variety of reasons why a fan may not feel as attached. Here’s what they had to say.

As you’ve seen above, the biggest reason for fandom decrease is an increase in fandom of sports other than soccer. Our research tells us that ahead of soccer in terms of overall fandom are American football and basketball – two juggernauts of pop culture and entertainment. In a year with no major event to pull in event seekers at scale like the FIFA Men’s or Women’s World Cup, it’s no surprise that fandom, for many, dropped in 2021. When we conduct the next iteration of our survey in Q4 of 2022 it will be interesting to see how respondents answer the question of fandom change.

The second most-selected reason for fandom drop-off is because people have a busy life and other things have taken priority. During the height of the pandemic when sports were an afterthought, perhaps many casual fans lost a reason to stick around. Other interests or responsibilities took priority and that’s something that, for many, still holds true to this day.

The two most-selected responses account for almost half (44%) of chosen answers and there’s a decent drop to the next grouping of selected answers. Following those two are a change in social circle (14%) and a dislike of the political sphere making its way into the sport (10%). Together, the top four answer choices account for roughly 70% of all selected answers.

Interestingly, two of the three least-selected choices deal with access to viewing games. Increased costs of viewership and not having access to such channels account for only 12% of chosen answers meaning nearly 90% of the reasons for decreased fandom, at least based on provided answer choices, are behavioral and not due to lack of access.

Categories: Feature, Featured, Research