The popularity of La Liga in the US is growing at a rapid rate. This should surprise nobody, especially those of us who have kept up with the general rise in interest surrounding soccer in the United States; the writing has been on the wall for quite some time. Many will look at David Beckham and his move to LA Galaxy in 2007 as the catalyst for soccer’s rise in popularity, but in reality, the US has always had an underbelly of interest regarding the greatest sport on earth, and while Beckham did shine a spotlight on the national league, the seeds for its growth had already started to flourish way before that, and interest in foreign leagues such as La Liga have become a large part of football’s popularity within the United States.
A win for the fans, a win for the league
The popularity of La Liga in the United States is not a one-way street either, in that as much as Americans are taking to the Spanish league in droves, the league itself is actively trying to promote itself in the US, in a bid to maximise interest, and in turn revenue. The interest from La Liga ranks so highly, that the idea of playing some official matches in the United States has been floated as a possibility, albeit with stern opposition from FIFA and some Spanish fans alike. The Spanish league has threatened legal action should the attempt be blocked by FIFA, and as of this very moment, nobody is sure what the outcome will be. Football purists may find the idea strange, but seeing as other leagues such as the EPL (and even other sports such as the NFL) have considered this option before (NFL having already implemented competitive matches abroad), it is a very real possibility that we could see La Liga matches played on US soil at some point in the future.
Those who are likely to be happiest about the idea coming to fruition (aside from American fans) are the sponsors of the Spanish top-flight teams, such as the likes of online broker EasyMarkets who signed a deal last year to become the main sponsor of Real Betis. The idea of pushing their brands into such a huge new territory would always be a financial boon for those associated with La Liga clubs, but especially for those teams and sponsors who don’t occupy the top echelons of footballing fame (Barcelona and Real Madrid need little introduction to football fans across the world).
Latin American interest creates a snowball effect
Aside from the push for league games to be played on American soil, televised La Liga matches are now being shown regularly on US sports channels, again pushing the La Liga brand further than ever before. It is also impossible to mention the rise of La Liga in America, without talking about how it has been taken to the heart of the Central and South American communities with gusto. With so many Mexican players plying their trade in the Spanish league, cities with large Mexican communities across the United States have naturally become far more interested in La Liga than other foreign leagues such as the English Premier League. Other South American countries that have a large number of nationals playing in Spain, and also a large contingent of immigrants living in the US contribute in exactly the same way, to the point where countless bars in the likes of Miami are now home to every La Liga match that is aired on US TV, where hundreds if not thousands of fans from all over the Americas congregate to watch a league that has become home to a melting pot of Latin American talent. This sort of grassroots interest tends to generate a buzz that magnifies itself without even trying. Because of the immigrant interest in the league, a snowball effect has started in America when it comes to La Liga, that shows no signs of slowing down.
With many American companies sponsoring La Liga teams, a huge Hispanic interest that has filtered into other demographics within the country, Tv coverage that rivals Spain’s coverage itself, and a general boost in football investment across the MLS, it isn’t difficult to see why football and La Liga, in particular, is fast becoming big news across the United States. If the league manages to push through the idea of playing competitive matches on US soil, it is difficult to see anything other than a marked change in attitude and brand awareness across the country. There is certainly interest, and there is certainly the impetus from the league itself. All that remains to be seen, is just how big La Liga can get in a country that already has American football, baseball, and basketball deeply rooted within its heart. Can football (or soccer, if you prefer) ever get to those levels in the US? The jury is out on that one, but if soccer does indeed infiltrate the national zeitgeist, you can bet your bottom dollar that La Liga will be at the heart of it.