Soccer is a global sport, but it has always had to compete for attention in the US as it’s less popular than American football (gridiron). However, in recent years, this seems to be changing with international soccer starting to make strides on US soil. Conversely, despite the huge popularity American football enjoys in the US, the sport has struggled to find its place across Europe for decades. A recent transatlantic uptick marks a positive change for cementing the sport into the regular roster for European players.
What are the reasons behind the sudden meteoric rise of soccer in the USA and American football in Europe? Join me in this guide if you want to learn more about the USA–Europe trends for American and European football.
Concussions to Cautiousness – Shifting Dynamics in American Football
Let’s talk about American football, a sport that, let’s be honest, can sometimes resemble strategic collisions more than a game. You simply can’t ignore the knocks, bruises, and the serious implications of player traumas. Remember Will Smith’s powerhouse performance in “Concussion”? That film was a wake-up call, raising awareness about the real-life impacts of the game on player health. But hey, every game has its risks, right?
Since 2002, the NFL has been playing its cards right by making great strides to implement ongoing rule changes that prioritize player safety and prevent concussions. Tackling techniques, helmet-to-helmet contact, and other potential risk factors are under the microscope. Significant changes include the rules that make it a foul for players to use their helmets to attack an opponent’s head or neck area, as well as lowering a helmet to attack an opponent. These rules have been nearly impossible to officiate, so the NFL has had to rely heavily on fines and warning letters.
Now, you might be wondering, does all this emphasis on safety water down the game’s intensity? The short answer: not one bit. It adds a new layer of strategy. With rule modifications encouraging safer play, athletes are adapting their techniques and bringing finesse to the field. But here’s the kicker: these safety-centric changes aren’t just for the sake of domestic play. The NFL has its sights set on Europe, aiming to export not just the excitement of American football but a safer version of the game. By prioritizing player well-being, the NFL isn’t just scoring points on the field; it’s winning hearts off it.
Global Viewership of American Football vs Soccer
The NFL’s Super Bowl and the FIFA World Cup are two of the major competitions in American football and soccer, respectively. It’s always been a topic for debate as to which competition garners more viewership.
First, let’s talk about the Super Bowl, the undisputed heavyweight champion for American football fans. Every year, millions tune in from around the world, not just for the game but for the sheer entertainment extravaganza. Shifting our focus to soccer, the FIFA World Cup is the crown jewel of the soccer calendar and is the heartbeat of tournament that unites the globe.
Now, let’s throw some numbers into the ring. In 2023, the Super Bowl, with its grandeur and half-time extravagance, attracted over 115 million viewers in the United States alone. Globally, that number hovers around the 40 million mark, making it one of the most-watched annual events.
On the side of soccer, the FIFA World Cup takes the lead in global viewership. The 2022 FIFA World Cup drew an audience of over 25 million people in the US. On a global scale, the event attracted around 1.5 billion viewers. Yes, a billion. That’s almost a quarter of the world’s population tuning in to watch 22 players chase a ball across a field. While the Super Bowl remains a distinctly American affair with a growing international fanbase, the appeal of soccer lies in its ability to be a global unifier.
The Expansion of America in European Sport
The USA is making great strides to expand American football into Europe. In 2022, the NFL generated 18.6 billion U.S. dollars in revenue, the highest figure ever. So, it’s to see why the country is taking bold steps to expand its sports business by promoting American football transatlantically. Now, let’s switch jerseys and talk soccer. While the USA is working hard to promote American football in Europe, soccer is also making significant strides to consolidate its place in the US.
There are several strategies put in place to promote American football outside the US as well as make soccer more popular in the country. Let’s look at the key strategies.
Rise of Soccer in the USA
Soccer has grown in the USA thanks to American professional footballers like Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna playing for the US men’s national team, and the US women’s national team winning two consecutive World Cups recently. Now, the US is recruiting international soccer stars as a strategy to boost the sport’s popularity in the country. Take, for instance, the arrival of Lionel Messi, a maestro in the world of soccer, joining Inter Miami in Major League Soccer (MLS).
With Lionel Messi’s arrival in MLS, soccer is poised to become more popular ahead the of 2026 FIFA World Cup. He has so far scored nine goals in six games for Inter Miami. Following in Inter Miami’s footsteps, FC Dallas has also brought in former Real Sociedad striker Asier Illarramendi to join the American club as a defensive midfielder. Other clubs within the league and beyond will likely adopt this strategy by importing promising young talents from various corners of the globe.
Apart from recruiting international talent, MLS and soccer have both been growing in recent years. Major League Soccer, for instance, has evolved into a league to be reckoned with. New teams are sprouting up across the country, from Nashville to Austin, bringing the total count to a robust 29 teams.
NFL and American Football in Europe
American football is among the most popular sports in the United States, but it has also become very popular across Europe. The NFL has been particularly instrumental in this popularity, with many European leagues and events emerging. One popular event is the NFL International Series, a joint initiative by the NFL and its partners working to expand the popularity of the sport via television broadcasts. The series began as far back as 2007 and continued every year since then, hosting several American football games that take place in London. Other cities like Toronto, Munich, and Mexico City have also hosted these games.
We can’t talk about the growth of American football without mentioning popular football leagues such as the European League of Football (ELF), the Austrian Football League, the Russian American Football Championship, and the International Federation of American Football – Europe. The ELF is perhaps the most popular of them all, consisting of 17 teams located in Poland, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, France, Czech Republic, and Hungary, with plans to expand to 24 teams by 2024.
Now, if we’re talking European American football, Germany deserves a special mention. The country isn’t just embracing the game; it’s dominating it with teams like the Frankfurt Galaxy and the Berlin Thunder. The country is also home to the German Football League (GFL), which was founded in 1979 to promote American football in Germany. The league offers tournaments for both men and women, as well as smaller football leagues for kids.
The GFL has been particularly instrumental in promoting American football in Europe by providing opportunities for players to play this sport professionally. Thanks to the GFL, many European players have developed their skills through these leagues to advance their careers.
Much of the success of American football in Germany can also be traced back to 1990 when the NFL hosted a preseason game in West Berlin between the Los Angeles Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs. This was significant as the game marked a turning point for American football in the country, with over 55,000 fans attending the event.
Marketing efforts are also turning American football players into household names on the continent. From billboards to social media, the NFL is crafting a narrative that resonates with European fans, making them feel like they’re not just viewers but part of a global community. The US has also signed several partnerships for TV rights and sponsorships to promote the sport across Europe.
German Prowess in the NFL
Football fever isn’t just an American phenomenon; it’s a global affair, and Germany, with its rich sporting legacy, is no exception. Step onto the NFL field, and you’ll find more than just American grit – you’ll find the unmistakable influence of German players and coaches, working hard to promote the sport. These are some popular German players known for contributing to the growth of American football in Germany.
Sebastian Vollmer: Picture an offensive line that’s as impenetrable as the Berlin Wall – that’s Sebastian Vollmer for you. The former New England Patriots offensive tackle is a trailblazer for German players aspiring to make it big in the NFL.
Moritz Böhringer: From the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns to the Minnesota Vikings, Moritz Böhringer’s journey is the stuff dreams are made of. As a wide receiver, he broke barriers by being the first player drafted directly from a European league to the NFL. Today, he plays for the Stuttgart Surge of the European League of Football.
Mark Nzeocha: Linebacker Mark Nzeocha is more than a defensive powerhouse; he’s a testament to the global nature of the NFL. Born in Ansbach, Germany, Nzeocha’s journey from the University of Wyoming to the San Francisco 49ers showcases the international talent pool that feeds into the league.
Jakob Johnson: Fullback Jakob Johnson isn’t just carrying the ball; he’s carrying the hopes of aspiring German players. Hailing from Stuttgart, Johnson’s journey from the University of Tennessee to the New England Patriots highlights the doors that are opening for European talents in the NFL.
American Football Betting in Germany
Germany, a country with a deep-rooted passion for sports, has seen a significant surge in the popularity of sports betting. When it comes to online sports betting in Germany, European football (soccer) stands as the undisputed king of sports in the country, so it dominates the betting scene. American football has also been turning heads in the country. In 2022, the sport ranked as the second most popular sport in Germany, behind European football.
This has seen lots of players gravitating towards betting on American football, and it’s not hard to see why. Well, American football is a sport that starts and stops all the time, which presents exciting opportunities for punters to think before placing bets. The sport also has several betting markets, allowing you to bet on different outcomes. Other sports like basketball, handball, and tennis also attract a considerable number of wagers in Germany.
Sports betting in Germany is regulated at the state level and has changed over the years to align with European standards. The Interstate Treaty on Gambling, introduced in 2021, marked a pivotal moment by allowing private operators to apply for licences, expanding the market and providing more choices for bettors. The digital era has also ushered in a new wave of convenience for sports bettors in Germany.
Online betting platforms offer a wide range of options, allowing bettors to place bets from the comfort of their homes. These platforms also allow bettors to explore and wager on various events, from mainstream sports to niche competitions. This diversity enhances the overall betting experience, catering to the preferences of a broad audience. However, not all betting sites are created equal, which is why sportsbook comparison platforms like SportwettenSchweiz.org review the top betting sites with the best odds, markets, and sports. This shift to digital platforms has not only expanded the popularity of sports like American football and soccer, but also increased the variety of betting markets available.
Q: Is sports betting legal, and how can I ensure a safe and secure experience?
Yes, the legality of sports betting varies by jurisdiction. Many countries and states have legalized sports betting, but it’s a good idea to check the regulations in your specific location. Look for licensed and regulated sportsbooks to ensure a safe experience. Legitimate platforms have robust security measures to protect your personal and financial information. Always gamble responsibly, understanding the risks and setting limits on your betting activities.
Q: What factors should I consider before placing a sports bet?
Successful sports betting goes beyond luck; it involves informed decision-making. Consider factors such as team performance, player statistics, recent form, injuries, and head-to-head records. Analyse the odds offered by bookmakers and be aware of any external influences like weather conditions or venue specifics. Developing a solid understanding of the sport you’re betting on enhances your ability to make informed predictions.
Q: Can American football take off in soccer-crazy Europe?
Well, the NFL is certainly giving it the old college try, with games in Germany and plans for expansion. Only time will tell if Europe will embrace the pigskin as warmly as it does the soccer ball.
The influx of American football into the European arena, spearheaded by the NFL and other major leagues, paints a picture of a sport finding new homes and passionate fanbases. Germany, with its powerhouse teams like the Frankfurt Galaxy and the Berlin Thunder, stands as a testament to the growing appetite for American football in Europe.
On the other side of the Atlantic, soccer is experiencing a meteoric rise in the USA. The arrival of international icons like Lionel Messi in Major League Soccer (MLS) symbolizes more than just a transfer; it marks the embrace of soccer as a global sport on American soil. As American football explores new frontiers in Europe and European football solidifies its presence in the USA, the opportunities are boundless. Both sports stand to thrive in new markets, creating avenues for cultural exchange, economic growth, and an influx of talent.