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Poll Says Two-Thirds of Americans Aren't Interested in the World Cup (Fun with Statistics Edition)

Jamaica v United States - World Cup Qualifer

Earlier today, a bunch of people I follow started tweeting out this Reuters poll about Americans’ interest in the upcoming World Cup. The spinning, bold headline here is that two-thirds of the U.S. population isn’t interested in the tournament. Amazing, right? Americans still don’t like soccer is the obvious conclusion. Most older American soccer fans have been beaten down by the Jim Romes of the world their entire lives, so they’re hardwired to be thin-skinned about a headline such as this.

Instead of doing what I might have done in my younger days, i.e. going on a screed listing all the reasons why soccer is popular and that people just don’t “get it” and falling into the troll trap, let’s be a little more rational. Granted I’ll never be confused with Nate Silver, but consider these main statistics the Reuters poll revealed about a nation of roughly 314 million people.

  • If two-thirds aren’t planning to follow the World Cup, that means one-third will follow the tournament, which translates to a healthy 104 million people — roughly the combined total population of World Cup favorites Spain and Italy.
  • Only seven percent of Americans plan on “following (the World Cup) closely”, which translates to 22 million — roughly the combined population of soccer-mad nations Belgium and Portugal.

For comparison, over 80 percent of the country had no interest in following the NFL during the NFC and AFC Championship Games, which drew “huge ratings” with between 50 and 56 million people watching in January.

Again, I’m not great at math but that seems like there’s going to be decent amount of Americans who’ll have eyeballs tuned into to ESPN (which paid $1.1 billion for the U.S. TV rights) or Univision come June regardless of that headline to that poll.

I’ll defer to Homer Simpson here for the final word:

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