Time magazine has a great article on the popularity of the World cup. Among the interesting stats, The England v, US game last Saturday had more viewers than the NBA championship games (Celtics v. Lakers) and almost three times the average ratings of the Stanley Cup matches.
The author goes on to try to identify the recent growth (80% over 2006). He speculates that more soccer on TV is the main reason. I’d add that the growing interest in soccer, is partly due to the strong and often well-organized fan communities using social media to stay connected and grow the fan base.
In the last few years, supporter groups have become extremelywell coordinated and connected. Before social media became main stream supporters would often gather in small groups at a bar before a game or to sit down and plan out chants and songs.
Today you see groups like Portland’s Timber’s Army managing discussion boards about the team badge, hosting niche communities on Facebook and using Twitter to organize events. Seattle Sounders, an MLS team, has five officially recognized fan clubs with varying degrees of rowdiness. These groups all use Facebook, Twitter, blogs and their own Websites to attract new fans and create a strong connections between fans and the game.