It's Official: Latinos Helped Fuel World Cup Fever In The U.S.


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Brian Woodman Jr.

As many sports fans and bar patrons can attest, there was a lot of interest in the World Cup this year throughout the United States. ESPN executives stated that a new precedent was set for both viewing and online streaming of the games. (link;
Gabriela Nunez, the communications manager of ESPN International and ESPN Desportes (the Spanish language branch of ESPN), said the Latino market is indeed playing a major part in helping soccer’s popularity in America grow. “There are 37 million Hispanic sports fans in the US,” she said. “That is 89 percent of all Hispanics — we have more sports fans than ever before.”
She said soccer is extremely  popular with Hispanics, particularly those who were born elsewhere and speak Spanish as a primary language. According to a 2013 sports poll by ESPN, she said, six of the top 10 sports events among this group were soccer events; these include the World Cup, CONCACAF Gold Cup (link;, Copa Libertadores (link;, the Spanish League and the Champions League.
Nunez said that in May of 2014, 43 percent of Americans ages 12 and older (which translates to 113 million people) polled about it described themselves as fans of professional soccer; this includes 12 percent, or 31 million people, who considered themselves avid fans. In 2010, about 32 percent of those polled described themselves as fans and 8 percent as avid fans.
About 39 percent of general sports fans appeared interested in this year’s World Cup, according to other data from ESPN. About 63 percent of the Hispanics that were polled expressed interest, she said, as opposed to about 30 percent of the other two groups. Nunez added that Hispanics were significantly more interested that whites or blacks, according to ESPN data.
“The more interesting aspect is that 15 percent of those interested in the World Cup (or 14 million fans) do not consider themselves pro soccer fans, showing the magnitude of this large global event,” she said.
Youth Soccer coach Carlos Almeida said the sport’s growth has sometimes been tempered by the perception in America that it is a foreign sport. Almeida coaches for the Connecticut Football Club (link;, which is a regional network of soccer branch clubs for youths from ages seven to 19.
“Its grown phenomenally,” he said. He estimated that attendance, participation and general awareness have reached new heights, adding that interest in the World Cup continued beyond whether the United States team would win.
“The nay-sayers were proven wrong,” he said. He added that in recent years more parents who were playing are now coaching, which has improved the quality of potential players. He said that while soccer is primarily a suburban sport in Connecticut, the Latino influence on the sport still exists here. He referred to an Ecuadorian soccer recreational travel league in Danbury as an example.
Spokespersons for O’Toole’s Irish Bar in New Haven described their World Cup Village events, which began this year on June 12 and showed every World Cup game to patrons, as well attended by Hispanics, regardless of which countries were playing.