Slowly but surely the American sports-watching public is taking notice of soccer (even if they won’t admit it). There are three daily TV shows dedicated to showing all of the highlights and analysis of the day’s action, along with a myriad of U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams, MLS, Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga matches shown every week across multiple channels. While increased TV coverage has been a major factor in growing “the beautiful game” across the United States, another channel is becoming the starting point for new fans across the country: the FIFA video game franchise by EA Sports.
FIFA has started to capture some otherwise unconvinced footy “haters” and began converting them into fervent followers of a player, team or league. With millions of online users worldwide, FIFA has become a community of football fans that range from beginners to experts, newbies to hardened supporters. As it pertains to American users, ownership of the game is up 25-30% annually (a difference of $200 million for EA). More Americans are buying the game and playing online against players from other countries.
This new perspective, and playing style of different users, is what has become intriguing for new users who may be playing FIFA for the first time. To get the basics of the game is a relatively painless process, but to master it can take significantly more time. Playing against different talented people, who are trying to emulate their favorite player or team is what makes any sports game so much fun. But, for the growth of soccer in America, this takes on a whole different meaning.
There are a few reasons why I believe that FIFA has contributed to the growth of soccer in America, but two factors stand out: the game’s use as a teaching tool and the ability to collaborate with different players across the world.
Americans who may be new fans of the sport have the chance to learn about the beautiful game in a low-pressure environment. Novice fans can learn about particular players, club teams, national teams, coaching tactics, formations and domestic leagues without being scoffed at by more experienced fans (in a pub, per say). This builds the base knowledge that any soccer fan thrives on. From there, it’s easier to understand intricacies like first touch, passing and shooting (moreover when and why teams possess certain qualities).
Being able to interact with other footy fans is another important aspect of the video game and becoming a supporter. Playing against friends and colleagues (or as part of a team) online gives a new supporter a different perspective on playing styles, tactics and player attributes. More importantly, it gives the chance for different players to share stories about their passion for the game. The learning process from these kinds of interactions are part of the surge in soccer interest in the United States. More people are taking notice, supporting and committing to soccer at an early age which only means that the community of soccer fans in the United States will continue to grow.
If you haven’t played FIFA before, I encourage you to give it a shot. If you have, enjoy the challenges that FIFA ’14 will produce. Either way, all levels of soccer support are good enough to grow the game in the United States. Look for another spike in fandom after the 2014 World Cup.
Play FIFA | Grow the Game