Football fever in the us

The Major League Soccer has attracted world-class players like (from left) Steven Gerrard, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard. Average attendance has smashed the 20,000 figure this season.
The Major League Soccer has attracted world-class players like (above) Steven Gerrard, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard. Average attendance has smashed the 20,000 figure this season.PHOTOS: ACTION IMAGES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The Major League Soccer has attracted world-class players like (from left) Steven Gerrard, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard. Average attendance has smashed the 20,000 figure this season.
The Major League Soccer has attracted world-class players like Steven Gerrard, (above) Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard. Average attendance has smashed the 20,000 figure this season.PHOTOS: ACTION IMAGES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The Major League Soccer has attracted world-class players like (from left) Steven Gerrard, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard. Average attendance has smashed the 20,000 figure this season.
The Major League Soccer has attracted world-class players like Steven Gerrard, Andrea Pirlo and (above) Frank Lampard. Average attendance has smashed the 20,000 figure this season.PHOTOS: ACTION IMAGES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Women's World Cup win, plus infusion of top names in MLS, augurs well for sport's growth

NEW YORK • Football mania has hit American shores in a manner not seen since Pele and Franz Beckenbauer graced the North American Soccer League back in the 1970s.

The United States' sparkling triumph at the Women's World Cup - led by the highly marketable Carli Lloyd - is generating a surge in TV audiences watching the sport.

Their 5-2 final thumping of Japan was seen by 25.4 million viewers on Fox - a record for a football game shown on English-language television in the US.

With an addition of nearly 1.3 million viewers watching on Telemundo, the Spanish-language station, the total of 26.7 million also exceeds the record 26.5 million combined viewers that saw Germany beat Argentina in last year's men's World Cup final on ABC and Spanish-language Univision.

In the domestic men's football scene, the arrivals of top European stars Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo and Steven Gerrard are generating plenty of excitement for the Major League Soccer (MLS) season.

With the men's national team embarking on their quest to retain the Concacaf Gold Cup on home soil this month, it seems as if football is dominating headlines in the US for at least this summer.

Undoubtedly, the Women's World Cup triumph on Sunday - a day after Independence Day- has given American football a feel-good factor together with plenty of heroines on the pitch, not least of all Lloyd, who scored a stunning hat-trick in the final.

"She has what all corporate America is searching for - humility, intelligence, a sense of drama and aggression to her game," Rick Horrow, chief executive of Horrow Sports Ventures, said. "And let's not forget a record-setting hat-trick in a dominant US performance."

While the US contemplates making Lloyd the poster girl of the women's game as the women's professional game aims to garner more media exposure, it helps that the MLS is getting more attention than ever, thanks to a bumper crop of top European players crossing the Atlantic for the first time in over 40 years.

Nearly one year after New York City Football Club announced his signing, Lampard will make his debut for the team on Sunday at Yankee Stadium against Toronto FC alongside team-mates such as David Villa, who is a former Spanish international striker.

He will soon be joined by another top midfielder in Pirlo, who confirmed on Monday that he will leave Juventus and sign a 21/2-year deal with New York City.

The 36-year-old playmaker leaves the Italian champions after four highly successful years in Turin which had yielded four Serie A titles, the 2015 Coppa Italia and two Italian Supercups. "It was not easy to decide but the time has come to start a new adventure," he said.

With Gerrard also joining up with David Beckham's former club Los Angeles Galaxy, the MLS can boast a bevy of well-known, top-class footballers, even if they might be several years past their prime.

All these must help the sport grow in popularity in the US.

Although the MLS' television deal is a meagre US$70 million (S$94 million) compared to the National Football League's massive US$27 billion deal, the average attendance this season has smashed the 20,000 mark.

This is an increase of 16 per cent from last year and the figure is on track to become the highest in the league's 20-year history .

With over 13 million people playing the sport in the country, at the very least, the national teams - as well as the MLS - will not be an afterthought in the world of football after this eventful summer.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2015, with the headline 'FOOTBALL FEVER IN THE US'. Print Edition | Subscribe