Americans Are More Excited for the World Cup Than Usual
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is unlike any World Cup before it. The first one in the Arab world and the first to be played outside the traditional months of June and July, the Qatar World Cup is already unprecedented — and that’s before you wade into the tournament’s many controversies, which include the host country’s human rights record.
With all of that tumult as a backdrop, Morning Consult surveyed soccer fans in the United States and eight other countries to uncover their interest in the tournament, favorite teams and players and thoughts on the various controversies, all while looking ahead to the 2026 World Cup in North America.
The 2022 World Cup, underway this week in Qatar, has been racked with controversy. But Americans are still prepared to watch the monthlong tournament at levels significantly higher than in prior years. Their country actually qualifying — which the U.S. men’s national team failed to do in 2018 — tends to help with that excitement.
About 3 in 5 U.S. soccer fans (58%) plan to watch this year’s World Cup, according to a Morning Consult survey conducted last month. That’s up from the 48% who said they watched in 2014, and the 45% who reported watching in 2018.
3 in 5 American Soccer Fans Expect to Watch the World Cup in Qatar
U.S. soccer fans are ready for Qatar
- About one-quarter of U.S. adults (26%) expect to watch “a lot” or “some” of the World Cup this year. In the same survey, 21% of respondents said they watched the 2014 World Cup, when the United States lost in the round of 16 to Belgium, while 1 in 5 adults said they watched the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where Team USA failed to qualify.
- Among generations, millennials were most likely to say they will watch the World Cup in Qatar. Only about one third (34%) of the group said they expect to watch “none” of the tournament, compared with more than half of all adults (52%) who said the same.
- The vast majority of self-identified “avid” American soccer fans said they expect to watch at least part of the tournament. Only 6% said they don’t plan to watch any of it.
- This is the first World Cup to be hosted by an Arab nation and played outside the traditional summer months, due to the extreme heat in Qatar. The survey found that almost 1 in 5 adults (17%) and 1 in 3 soccer fans actually said they prefer the later start date.
World Cup Still Ranks Below Major U.S. Sporting Events in Viewing Interest
The other ‘football’ dominates in the United States
- Four in 5 soccer fans said it was either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that they would watch the Super Bowl, making it the most popular major U.S. sporting event among the group, followed by the Olympics (75%) and World Series (68%). Soccer fans had the same interest level in watching the NBA Finals as the World Cup (62%).
- Among all adults, the World Cup ranked higher than only Wimbledon in viewing interest among the options included in the survey.
The rockets’ red glare
With or without a huge U.S. audience, soccer remains the global game. Over the course of the tournament, the 29-day World Cup is expected to draw 5 billion viewers, more than half of the world’s population. FIFA said that over 105 million Americans tuned into the 2014 World Cup — the last time the U.S. national team qualified — and watched at least 20 minutes of a match. It’s fair to expect an even bigger turnout in 2022.
Not only is the U.S. team playing this time, but soccer in America has grown in popularity since they last qualified. About 1 in 3 adults (32%) now consider themselves to be soccer fans — and that group is younger and more diverse than the general U.S. sports fan, pointing to a promising future for the sport in America. A solid performance by Team USA in Qatar would go a long way toward that future coming quicker.
The Oct. 19-21, 2022 survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,211 U.S. adults, including 813 self-identified soccer fans, with unweighted margins of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points and plus or minus 3 percentage points, respectively.
Mark J. Burns is a sports analyst on the Industry Intelligence team, where he conducts research, authors analyst notes and advises leaders in the sports industry on how to apply insights to make better business decisions. Before joining Morning Consult, he served as a beat reporter at Sports Business Journal, covering the business of hockey and soccer. Mark graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in history and holds a Juris Doctor from Belmont University. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].