Watching Mathew McConaughey talking with Christian Pulisic and discussing his involvement with Austin FC in the MLS made me wonder if that was for fun or has soccer become kind of a hipster investment project.

Kevin Durant was seen recently talking with Philidalphia Union.

I’ve seen tons of investment groups talking about the ceiling that the NFL is near and the impossibility to get involved there or the NBA. The decline of the MLB and NHL are noted. Also funny enough I noticed how ESPN’s top level navigation had changed (dropping MLB and NHL took a nose dive) and they finally incorporated soccer into the main site a few years ago..

Is it a real investment opportunity or just a fun project for the wealthy?

  • LeBron James is part owner (2%) of UCL Champions Liverpool in England.
  • Steve Nash is majority owner of Spanish club Real Mallorca and has been featured for FIFA and been a commentator for soccer in Europe.
  • Tony Robins and Will Ferrell are part of a huge group that own LAFC including Magic Johnson, Nomar Garciaparra, Mia Hamm, Allen Shapiro, Chad Hurley and Vincent Tan.
  • Drew Carey shunned his Cleveland roots and is part owner of Seattle Sounders.
  • Diplo & Didier Drogba are owner of UCL Club Phoenix Rising
  • Carmelo Anthony is owner of Puerto Rico FC of the NASL

The list goes on. Could there be a day where we see NFL players sporting USMNT jerseys? That day has come and gone – JJ Watt, a Chelsea fan already and who is dating Chicago Red Star’s and USWNT soccer player Kealia Ohai

So how does soccer compare to other the big sports in viewership, attendance and valuation? Here’s a few numbers to chew on in some of the biggest sports teams in the US.

Viewership 2019

NFL 
Super Bowl98,100,000
AFC Championship53,900,000
NFC Championship44,000,000
NFC Division38,190,000
NFC Wild Card35,890,000
NFL Draft11,100,000
49ers vs Seahawks23,300,000
Season Avg16,500,000
NCAAF
Championship25,280,000
OSU v Wash16,780,000
NCAA Bball
Championship19,630,000
MSU v Duke (8)16,200,000
TT v MSU (4)15,840,000
Oregon vs Michigan1,830,000
NBA
Game 618,760,000
Game 518,600,000
Finals Avg15,100,000
Lakers vs Bucks2,780,000
Season Average 1,500,000
MLB
Game 723,000,000
World Series Avg14,000,000
All Star Game8,140,000
Red Sox v Yankees449,000
July Average198,000
NHL
Game 78,720,000
Finals Average 5,460,000
All Star Game1,087,000
Winter Classic2,972,000
Flyers v Penguins1,969,000
Season Average 302,000
UFC
244910,000
MLS & Club Soccer
UCL Final2,958,000
Liga MX Morelia v America1,800,000
Liga MX Necaxa v Monterrey1,300,000
MLS Cup1,270,000
Liga MX America v Tigres1,100,000
EPL Liverpool v City1,135,000
EPL Leicester v Arsenal779,000
Liga MX Avg737,000
MLS LAFC v Galaxy462,000
MLS Season Avg268,000
Soccer World
World Cup ’19 Women Final16,870,000
World Cup ’18 Men Final11,800,000
US v England WC ’19 Women Semi8,790,000
Gold Cup Final8,540,000
Mexico v Canada GC Group2,670,000
US vs Curacao GC Quarter1,547,000
US vs Jamaica GC Semi1,139,000
US vs Venezuela Friendly1,037,000
US vs Canada Nations League352,000
FIFA U17 Korea v Mexico758,000

Social Media Following

Followers (mostly Twitter)
Cristiano Ronaldo (instagram)158,910,000
Neymar (instagram)112,710,000
Lionel Messi (instagram)112,110,000
Cristiano Ronaldo81,900,000
David Beckham (instagram)54,890,000
LeBron James (instagram)47,910,000
Neymar45,000,000
LeBron James44,300,000
Real Madrid33,500,000
Barcelona31,600,000
NFL24,900,000
NBA29,000,000
MLB8,500,000
UFC7,300,000
NHL6,300,000
Zlatan Ibrahimovic6,300,000
USWNT2,500,000
USMNT2,200,000
NCAA March Madness1,400,000
Atlanta FC 997,300
Christian Pulisic370,000
NCAA F355,400
EPL134,300
USYNT115,000
US Soccer71,000

Average Attendance

NCAA F Michigan111,459
NCAA F Penn St105,678
NFL Cowboys90,920
NFL NY Jets78,583
La Liga Barcelona75,208
EPL Man U74,879
NFL Avg66,648
La Liga Real Madrid60,967
EPL Arsenal59,897
MLS Atlanta52,510
MLB Dodgers49,065
USMNT vs Mexico* single game47,960
MLS Sounders40,247
MLB Cardinals42,967
USMNT vs Venezuela* single game23,955
NHL Chicago21,402
MLS Avg21,310
NHL Dallas21,220
NBA 76ers20,441
NBA Bulls20,084
USMNT Avg19,530
MLB Avg17,820
NBA Avg17,757
NHL Avg17,320
USWNT ’18 Avg14,064

Team Values

Team Value
NFL Cowboys $5B 
MLB New York Yankees $4.6B 
La Liga Real Madrid $4.24B 
La Liga Barcelona $4.02B 
NBA Knicks $4B 
EPL Man U $3.81B 
NFL Patriots $3.8B 
NBA Lakers $3.7B 
NBA Warriors $3.5B 
NFL Giants $3.3B 
MLS Atlanta $500,000,000
MLS Galaxy $480,000,000

There is a lot to unpack from all of this data, but some clear signs that soccer belongs in the conversation.

The NFL is clearly in a league of their own for viewership and command the current American TV screen time. They have had bumps, but are back on track once again in 2019. The opportunities beyond that are there.

NBA has had some great movement of late, but are on a downward trend since the villainous Golden State has derailed and Zion Williamson’s injury slowed their new super hero’s rise. LeBron is aging and a changing of the guard is needed.

The value of investing in soccer in general is real, though at the highest levels what those teams are worth will continue to be a battle ground. Nearly every season there are rumors of clubs like Newcastle and others who might be for sale.

On the lower leagues, how far can they go? MLS is a young league their growth is well documented, though it’ll be interesting to see now that they are at capacity for growth in teams and will likely take a hit over the next few years in quality as they spread the top players out.

The value of investing in the US national team remains a mystery to me. It depends on how they value their organization and it’ll be critical we get to the 2022 World Cup. US Soccer had a ton of challenges in 2019 in the public eye with telling articles from NY Times, glass door reviews, a mass exodus of employees at the youth coaching levels and Wallstreet Journal’s coverage of their financial and lawsuit challenges will put a dark cloud of the organization itself. They didn’t make the 2018 World Cup losing to a small island nation who was eliminated. In their new leadership group they already have a loss to Canada to their name and were embarrassed at home by their rival Mexico 3-0 in a friendly after losing a Gold Cup final to them.

On the flip side the rise of Christian Pulisic and a tremendous youth movement might be enough to move the program forward. His success in the Premier League is unprecedented and with Matthew McConaughey taking the time to visit at Chelsea and JJ Watt being a fan it can only help the US men’s national program. The continuing rise of young Americans in Europe at the top ranks can only help the game get more popular and be more valuable as the next generation loves playing this sport.