Soccer is undoubtedly one of the largest and most popular sports across the globe. However, while that may be the case, it is not always received in the same fashion with distinct differences in the game throughout different locations. Although the rules of the game remain very much the same, there is an element of variation within the sport between the United States and the United Kingdom. Along with such differences, the game is also received differently among both sets of fanbases.
With soccer being deeply ingrained in the origins of British sport, many supporters immerse themselves in the game to an incredible level, whilst in the US, the sport is still developing and many traditional American sports such as football, baseball and basketball remain at the forefront.
“MLS: Vancouver v Colorado” (CC BY 2.0) by daniel0685
Within the sport itself, the rules of the game are global and remain largely the same worldwide. However, while the ruleset is commonplace, the structure of the respective leagues within the United States and the United Kingdom vary to quite a substantial degree.
Major League Soccer, which is the leading men’s professional soccer league in the United States, opts for a different structure to that found in the British game. Within the American game, which is sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, the top-flight is divided into two separate leagues: the Eastern and Western Conference.
Once the two leagues have concluded, the top seven teams from each conference go through and enter into a play-off bracket. Within the play-off section, the competition elects to utilize a knockout approach which eventually results in one team from each conference meeting each other in the final to compete for the illustrious MLS Cup. This structure, however, has come under some scrutiny in recent years as the teams who manage to top the league table phase do not always go on to face each other in the finals of the competition, although they have the advantage of starting later in the competition.
Within the United Kingdom, the approach is very different. The Premier League, which is the top-flight of English soccer, is entirely based around the traditional league table structure. With each side playing 38 games in a season, the team that tops the table at the end in May is crowned as the champions. Nevertheless, the lower leagues of English soccer, such as the Championship, League One and League Two, feature numerous play-off fixtures at the end of each season.
Unlike in the MLS, the two sides that top each division are automatically promoted, while the teams who finish in the next four spots battle for promotion through a knockout play-off structure. Although the approach has come under fire in the United Kingdom, there is not the same degree of outrage as within the United States, as the side who finishes at the top of the table is rewarded with promotion and without the need for extra games.
As touched upon earlier, while soccer continues to grow within the United States, it has long been just another sport, with others being at the forefront. Traditionally that has long been the case, however, the sport of soccer is seemingly on the rise in the United States.
Over the last few years, some of the game’s biggest names including Andrea Pirlo, David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic have graced the MLS with their incredible ability in the later stages of their careers. As a result, such names have drawn attention to the MLS, with the league now gaining a lot of interest from across the globe. Although the sport has not yet reached the heights that occur within the UK, MLS’s ability to attract big stars is likely to be a huge factor in helping to bridge the gap.
Following England’s 1966 World Cup victory, the next generation of sports fans within the United Kingdom have been heavily invested in soccer. For many, their love of the sport developed because of their parents. But within the States, as the sport is only now beginning to flourish, soccer fans have not grown up with the sport being common household viewing, unlike those within the UK. That being said, however, at present, reports suggest that more than four out of ten people consider themselves soccer fans.
Supporters of UK soccer have had access to betting markets from the sport’s early days, which has helped increase investment in the sport among fans, whereas, in the US, sports betting was only legalized across the country as a whole recently so they are catching up. Land-based bookies, as well as online betting platforms, have played a vital role in increasing the level of interested supporters in the UK. Through deposit bonuses, enhanced odds, free bets and accumulator offers, soccer fans have been able to get more invested in the sport than ever before.
“LCFC lift the Premier League Trophy” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by boloveselvis
Ultimately, the sport has long been one of the greatest and most popular that the world has ever enjoyed. Soccer within the United Kingdom is deep within cultural roots and its popularity is only likely to continue rising with more and more platforms emerging which allow for increased viewing and interaction. While in the United States, soccer has only just started to find its feet, and although there are differences between how the game is structured and how invested the fans are, there is certainly scope for the sport to grow and reach new levels of popularity.