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Latinos drove a 52% growth in U.S. soccer fans between 2012 and 2019, according to a report released Tuesday by NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises.
The report, titled The Future Is Futbol, was prepared with the objective of understanding the change in the importance of soccer among American sports and the role that Latinos play in this phenomenon.
The study, conducted by the Gallup consulting firm, highlights that soccer has an estimated 85 million adult followers in the United States.
The 52% increase in followers between 2012 and 2019 contrasts with a 27% increase for basketball and an 8% increase for baseball during this period.
According to the report, the FIFA World Cup is considered more important among Hispanic viewers than any other sporting event, including the Super Bowl, World Series, or Olympics.
FIFA reported that the 2018 FIFA World Cup reached more than half of the world’s population, with 3.57 billion viewers.
In that year, the FIFA World Cup had its highest 32-day performance in U.S. Spanish-language media history, with a total audience reach of 37 million people.
The report highlights that soccer fans in the U.S. spend 7% more than the average American fan on team apparel, tickets, and sports equipment.
Latinos have driven changes in the U.S. population over the past decade, and as their influence grows, so has soccer’s popularity, the study notes.
Among Latinos 16 and older, nearly three-quarters (73%) say they are soccer fans.
Spanish is the language of soccer
More than half (53%) of Latinos 16+ and nearly 1 in 3 non-Latinos (29%) in the U.S. said they plan to watch the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Notably, 61% of Hispanic World Cup viewers said that if their team won the World Cup, their euphoria would be a more exciting experience than getting their dream job or even getting married.
Another relevant fact is that more than half (57%) of Hispanics said they have rearranged their priorities to watch an important game, including missing family events or work.
Soccer gatherings are even so momentous for Latino enthusiasts that they rank the event second only to Christmas, and above Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
The study underscores the power of Spanish for most Latino fans, as Spanish is considered the language and culture of soccer.
More than half (56%) of Hispanic World Cup viewers prefer to watch the FIFA World Cup in Spanish, and even 1 in 5 Hispanics who speak primarily English would prefer to watch in the language of Cervantes.
Spanish is not exclusive to Hispanics, because 17% of non-Latino tournament viewers said they would also watch some matches in Spanish, a 12% increase over 2018.
According to a brain neuroscience study conducted among bilingual U.S. Hispanics, watching a World Cup match with commentary in Spanish was 15% more enjoyable, keeping fans glued to the screen longer than those watching in English.
In addition, the effects of Spanish-language game commentary also carried over to advertising, as the study found that the same ad, when played in Spanish, had 19% more engagement and 49% more emotional intensity compared to the English version.
The sample for the study was based on 1,351 interviews among 967 Latino and 384 non-Latino soccer fans in the U.S. and was conducted in February 2022.