The end of 2019 not only signifies the end of a year but the closeout of a decade. This past decade with soccer in America seems like more than just ten years. We are light-years from where we were when 2010 rolled around. Some of that is for the better, and in some ways, maybe not so much. Thinking back to where things were ten years ago, where things are at now and where we are headed seems far too much to include in one recap. But before we launch into 2020 and all that the decade ahead holds for us, we thought it important to take a look back at where we have been, what has transpired and how the sport has evolved over the last ten years.
The first thing that jumps front and center is the continued rise of digital platforms in how we consume the sport. The early years of this decade gave rise to blogs and allowed individuals to create their own digital platforms to share their own ideas. Blogging was a powerful tool and we saw countless people create their own blogs. Be that blogs that focused on tactics, jerseys, clubs, whatever. Blogging gave fans an opportunity to share their own views with the world at large. It was a new platform that allowed fans to connect to other fans in new ways that had not existed before. Soccer fans and blogging seemed to go hand in hand and really ushered in a new realm in how we all consumed content and connected with the larger soccer audience.
The rise of blogging gave way to the rise of social media. And that may be the biggest story in soccer over this past decade. The way in which social media completely took over the digital side of the sport. Social media crushed blogs, it made old media change and adapt and it put more power in the hands of athletes than ever before. Players go to Instagram and Twitter to speak and engage directly with their fans. Clubs, national teams, brands, etc. also had the same opportunity to engage directly with their fans and consumers. Social media took hold in the 2010s and it has completely changed how we consume and interact with the sport.
The early years of this decade were very much for the core fan. The person that grew up kicking a ball or had some strange affinity for the sport on some odd level but, it ended with countless brands co-opting the sport. If the early years of the 2010s were about sharing ideas and interacting through blogs and words, the end of the decade was about new brands popping up in the space, social media dominating the conversation, and a new wave of soccer fans imparting their own viewpoints on this sport and this culture.
In the past few years we have seen Brand Jordan and PSG team up for on and off-field product collaboration, Kim Jones design a Nike boot, and Virgil too. A Virgil Abloh soccer boot is selling for $550 on StockX. Let that sink in for a minute. Palace Skateboards releases countless soccer inspired products and even got on the pitch with the Juventus third kit. One of the most hyped releases I can think of in the last couple of years was the Nike x Nigeria World Cup product. Y-3 and adidas elevated soccer through the influx of premium products. PUMA and Kehinde Wiley bridged a global artist on top of his game with soccer-inspired product. And these are all examples of early adopters in the space.
In addition to the releases from the big brands, we see small brands from across the globe that are forming their own visions of how soccer collides with streetwear and culture.
Soccer in America is looking very different at the end of 2019 than it was at the end of 2009. And that’s the way it should be. The sport and the culture are advancing even as new platforms, distribution and engagement with the younger generation are all in flux.
We saw the USWNT win back to back World Cups and saw the players on those teams establish themselves as global superstars. We saw politics and sport collide when Megan Rapinoe took a stance against the President. Combine that with her electrifying World Cup, and a true superstar was born. One that transcends the sport. Megan Rapinoe is destined for greatness outside of soccer.
The success of the USWNT reminds us of the struggles of the USMNT. Missing out on the 2018 World Cup was a massive blow. Missing out on the Olympics that this past decade offered only amplifies that. As the sport grows on and off the field domestically, the men’s national team is a reminder that not everything is on an upward trajectory. Hopefully, the 2020s offers a more positive decade with the men’s team than the 2010s did.
In 2010, there were 16 teams in MLS. As of the end of 2019, the 30th (and potentially last) MLS franchise was just announced. Charlotte, the last potential MLS franchised, paid $325 million for the rights to an MLS team. The sheer growth of the league presents its own troubles but it’s hard to argue with the growth that MLS and soccer, in general, are experiencing. 2020 also sees the kickoff of David Beckham’s Inter Miami. Beckham signed with the Galaxy in 2007, towards the end of that decade. And now, here he is launching his own team in 2020. If that doesn’t point to the growth of soccer here in the US, I don’t know what does.
The next decade looks bright for soccer in America. We will be hosting the 2026 men’s World Cup. There is a very good chance we host the 2027 women’s World Cup. Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympics. Soccer in America will very much be front and center of global soccer in the 2020s.
Now for some fun stuff. Here are a few of our predictions for soccer here in the next decade:
David Beckham will become the first person to win an MLS Cup as a player and an owner
Cristiano Ronaldo will find his way to MLS (but not Messi)
Megan Rapinoe will run and win her first political seat in Congress
The USMNT will lose a heartbreaker in the semifinals in the 2026 World Cup
We will see our first jersey sponsorship from a luxury fashion brand (Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, etc)
The USWNT will win the 2020 Olympics
The next Premier League TV rights deal in the US will absolutely smash previous EPL deals
By 2029, soccer will be bigger in the US than American football
FootyCon will be the marquee consumer event within the sport
European leagues will begin playing league matches here in the US
Thanks for riding with us over these past few years. We have some incredible things lined up for next year and beyond. Have a great holiday and we will see you all in 2020!