Soccer has dominated U.S. headlines as of late, largely due to the country’s performance in the World Cup. But is soccer here to stay in America? How does the World Cup affect it’s host nation? We talked to Stefan Szymanski, the Stephen J. Galetti Professor of Sport Management at U-M, to answer some of these questions. 

America’s Salary Cap

Cristiano Ronaldo earned $44 million last year, making him the world’s ninth highest paid athlete. 

Now that the U.S. has been knocked out of the World Cup, many Americans are wondering what’s next for being a soccer fan in the U.S. One natural option would be Major League Soccer, which hosts 19 teams across the U.S. and Canada. But Szymanski sees a problem. 

“The salary cap for U.S. soccer teams is around $4 million, which essentially amounts to minor league soccer in the global sense. Do Americans have a taste for minor league soccer? Probably not.”

The average player in Europe’s Premier league makes more than $50,000 a week, while the average Major League Soccer player makes only $208,000 annually. 

Soccer or Football

Szymanski published a paper in May titiled “It’s Football not Soccer.” In it he explains the term “soccer” has its origins in Britain. 

“Soccer” appears to be a coinage from England at the very end of the nineteenth century, thought to be associated with upper middle class students at elite universities, notably Oxford and Cambridge. It was quickly adopted in the US as a way to distinguish it from gridiron, and was widely in use in the US in the first decade of the twentieth century.”

Szymanski goes on to explain that the use of the term “soccer” declined in Britain in the 1980s, likely as a reaction against increasing usage in the U.S. 

Building the World Cup

The Arena Amazonia in Brazil. 

Brazil has spent $11.5 billion on the World Cup, with $3.6 billion spent on stadiums with no long-term use. This is especially noteworthy considering the host country. 

“Spending these sums might not be a problem for countries like Japan or America, but countries that have problems paying for basic human needs like Brazil should consider other options.”

But is there an alternative?

“The alternative is quite simply not to build these elaborate stadiums,” Szymanski said. “All the attention is on the pitch, these games are meant for TV. Consider the small number of fans in attendance compared to those watching around the world.”

The Big House will host Manchester United vs. Real Madrid on August 2. Do you think this bodes well for America hosting the World Cup in 2022?