Each year at GESM we sit down and develop an annual survey we send to soccer fans in the U.S. to help us better understand the opinions and trends in soccer fandom. If you haven’t already seen last year’s report, you can find it here.
To wet your appetite for our next report to be released in December, we pulled the ten most popular teams from around the world. As you’d expect the normal heavy-hitters from Europe are all there, but there are a few interesting inclusions that help tell the story that make fans in the U.S. unique.
When asked what their favorite soccer teams are around the world, our respondents said…
According to our research, the most popular team in the U.S. is none other than Barcelona. Valued by Forbes at over $3.5B with three of the best players in the world in Messi, Neymar, and Suarez (the #3, #4, and #22 most popular athletes in the world, per ESPN), it should come as no surprise that Barcelona is most popular. Back in March, Nike and Barcelona extended their jersey deal through 2026, worth more than $150M per year. Barcelona also recently opened a U.S. office to further improve their global reach.
2) Real Madrid
If you’re putting together a list of almost anything soccer-related and Barcelona appears, it’s a safe assumption that Real Madrid is right there, too. With almost 6 million Facebook fans in the U.S. alone and a star-studded lineup including the goal-scoring machine, Cristiano Ronaldo (#1, ESPN), it’s no surprise that Real Madrid are the second most popular team, according to our survey. Stateside, Madrid have played at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor twice in the past three years in front of a combined 215K people.
3) Manchester United
Back in 2014, Adidas and Manchester United agreed to a 10-year, $1.3B jersey deal starting last season, then a record jersey deal. Also that year, American vehicle manufacturing stalwart, Chevrolet, recognized the global impact of Manchester United and the club’s rising presence in the U.S. and agreed to a seven-year, $560M jersey sponsorship deal. 3.8 million U.S. Facebook fans, a Forbes valuation at $3.3B, and the additions of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (#21, ESPN) and Paul Pogba in the global arms race, plus longtime favorite Wayne Rooney (#17, ESPN), make it easy to see why Manchester United is on the list.
4) LA Galaxy
The first highest U.S. club on our list should come as no surprise. Just this past year, the Galaxy added one of the most popular Mexican players in Giovani dos Santos, the most popular Liverpool player of this generation in Steven Gerrard, Dutch hot rod Nigel de Jong (he didn’t stay in LA the whole season), and the return of arguably the greatest American player, Landon Donovan. The Galaxy is the most successful MLS club with five MLS Cup trophies and have a history of bringing in big players with big personalities and fandom like… oh, David Beckham.
Despite a dip in recent success, Chelsea remains one of the most popular clubs both globally and in the U.S. The club has 2.9 million American Facebook fans and players known around the world like David Luiz, Willian, Cesc Fabregas (#28, ESPN), Eden Hazard (#42, ESPN), and Diego Costa. In the last ten years, Chelsea has won the two Premier League titles, the FA Cup four times, and the UEFA Champions League once. Forbes values them as the seventh most valuable global soccer club at $1.6B.
Next on the list is another English club from London. While they don’t have the recent title success of Manchester United or Chelsea, Arsenal still have players known worldwide, a Forbes valuation of over $2B, 1.4 million U.S. Facebook fans, and over 60 local Gooners supporter groups. According to this 2015 Twitter report, Arsenal has the largest share of American fans in the Premier League at 21 percent.
7) Bayern Munich
The most popular German club according to our survey is, no surprise, Bayern Munich. Their roster is a who’s who of globally famous players, like Robert Lewandoski, Arjen Robben, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller, Franck Ribery, Arturo Vidal, and the list goes on. They are Forbes’ fourth most valuable global soccer club ($2.7B), boast 760K U.S. Facebook fans, over 100 U.S. supporter groups, and six Bundesliga titles in the last ten years. To grow their U.S. footprint and expand their reach, Bayern opened their U.S.-based office in New York City in 2014. We recently spoke with their U.S. team about their plans for stateside growth.
Chivas is the first Mexican team on the list and are arguably the club most known globally outside of the Americas. The powerhouse from Guadalajara has 1.5 million Facebook fans in the U.S., 2.75 million Twitter followers globally, were valued as the fourth most valuable club in the Americas ($279M) in 2014, and 11 league titles.
9) Club America
Next on the list is the most successful Mexican club, Club America, who has 14 league titles. The biggest club from the Mexican capital, Mexico City, is, like Chivas, one of the most well-known clubs in the Americas. They boast 1.6 million Facebook fans in the U.S., 2.64 million global Twitter followers, and were valued as the seventh most valuable club in the Americas in 2014 at $232M.
Closing out the top ten teams is Liverpool, who, with 41 trophies, is tied atop the list of most major trophies earned in English history. The club has 1.2 million Facebook fans in the U.S., are valued at $1.6B according to Forbes, and currently sit atop the Premier League standings in Jurgen Klopp’s first full season in charge. Since the start of the International Champions Cup in 2013, Liverpool have played five matches in the U.S., including stops in Chicago, New York City, Charlotte, Pasadena, Miami.