Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cricket Storming the US... Sort of

The United States has a strong triumvirate of major sports: Baseball (MLB), Football (NFL & College), and Basketball (NBA). Each of these sports enjoys a professional monopoly. While the NFL heads the popularity list by a large margin, each sport enjoys a significant following.

Ice Hockey (NHL) is the fourth major sport in the US, although there's little fan support outside the northern states and Canada. I didn't list it with the big three because it's my impression that nationally it doesn't even cross the radar of most sports enthusiasts. (I happen to live in a part of the country that is hockey mad! We also have a professional lacrosse team and a semi-professional indoor lacrosse team!) Additionally, the current strike / lockout is the second in 7 years which hardly strengthens the sport's appeal.

But the invasion is coming. Soccer is on the rise in the US. According to an ESPN article, "In March, a study by Luker On Trends/ESPN revealed the startling statistic that "pro soccer" trailed only the NFL as the most popular sport for Americans aged 12-24." I've recently noticed both ESPN and Fox running EPL and Champions League scores across the bottom of screens during NFL games.

Soccer is undoubtedly the behemoth of world sports and one would expect it to eventually occupy a significant place in the American sports landscape. It should continue to grow in popularity particularly as immigration continues to bring soccer fans to the US.

But other codes also seek recognition in the American marketplace. Did you know this year is the 15th anniversary for the USAFL? There might even be a team near you! Saturday October 13 the 2012 Nationals Competition kicks off near Cincinnati, Ohio, with four men's divisions and 1 women's division with 38 teams competing. In 2012 the AFL hosted its first ever combine enticing US athletes to come to Australia and play Aussie Rules. Here's the recruiting video for the combine.

Cricket is apparently also seeking to make inroads into the American consciousness. Here's an article describing the strategy that's based around the IPL's Twenty20 model. Basically, they're looking to recruit expat entertainers to support six franchises. The entertainers would serve as the public face for the competition and hopefully entice other expat Indians, Aussies and Englishmen to tune into the matches.

Some interesting snippets from the article highlight the numbers involved. "The US accounts for 15% of cricket's income, according to the International Cricket Council's global development manager, Tim Anderson." "The US also draws the second-highest number of visitors to the organisation's website behind India. The sport is followed by 15 million people in the US, according to the ICC."

What's the fuss with cricket? Here's a clip to whet your appetite!

So if you live in the US, how have you seen sports interests change over the last 10 years or so? Which "new" sport do you think is the fastest growing?

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