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Video game spurs rise in soccer popularity in America

Fans hold up a flag in support of the U.S. Men's National Team.
Flickr user Dinur/Flickr
Fans hold up a flag in support of the U.S. Men's National Team.

 Our conversation with University of Michigan professor Andrei Markovits

Soccer’s popularity in the U.S. has grown remarkably over the last decade. But why has a sport that was once reviled by many Americans grown so fast?

University of Michigan professor AndreiMarkovitshas one answer: video games.

According toMarkovits, EA Sports’s popular soccer game, FIFA, has been a catalyst in popularizing the game of soccer. Among many factors, such as the success of the U.S. women’s national team, changing social demographics, and the availability of streaming live games -- the video games have precipitated the sports unprecedented growth."The video game has created a major cultural reality that reinforces the growing discourse and awareness about soccer in the United States," Markovits said.


Markovits said the video game has led to an increase in the popularity of Major League Soccer in the U.S., but it's still complicated. Not everyone who plays the video game follows the sport.


"There's multiple levels of reality here," Markovits said. According to him, the video game serves as a portal into soccer fandom for some, but for others, it's just another video game.


Markovits joined us to talk about how the FIFA series has changed American sports culture.


Andrei Markovits is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and the Karl W. Deutsch Collegiate Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author of “Gaming the World: How Sports are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture” and “Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism.”

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