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The World Cup is scoring for Major League Soccer big time. SportsOnEarth.com Senior Writer and New York Magazine Contributing Editor Will Leitch talks to CNBC about the league's growing revenues and "underdog" status in the world of professional sports.
Thanks to the World Cup, America's obsession with soccer is growing to a fever pitch.
Last Sunday's match between the USA and Portugal men's teams drew nearly 25 million viewers, making it the most-watched soccer match ever in the U.S.
Such attention is what networks ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision Deportes banked on when they agreed to a $90 million-a-year TV deal with Major League Soccer through 2022 back in May. Is soccer, long a stepchild to the MLB and the NFL, finally winning over American fans?
"A lot of people have this idea that soccer has to somehow take over the NFL as the official pastime of America. That's not really what it has to do," explained Leitch. "All it has to do is just become a large niche sport."
There are signs it's already there. Soccer is the second most popular youth sport in the U.S. Additionally, Leitch notes that Major League Soccer now touts a higher average attendance record than the NBA and the NHL after operating for only 20 years.
"The kids of the soccer moms are now in their twenties and have expendable income," Leitch said. "You see this with the American Outlaws fan group, which has actually been the centerpiece of ESPN's whole ad campaign around the World Cup."