Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hispanic Millennials: The Future of MLS

Major League Soccer’s future success is contingent upon its ability to market its game to first and second generation Hispanic-Americans.

The United States Census Bureau estimates there are 48 million Hispanics living in the United States, a number which is expected to increase to 73 million by 2030. I contend that this figure will be driven by an increase in American born Hispanics, opposed to immigration. Arizona may be considered a rogue state today, but we are nation which is increasingly moving right of center. However politically untenable the situation may become, I believe the rate of illegal immigration will decrease in the coming decades. Thus, any increase in the Hispanic population of the United States will be attributable to an increase in birth rates; a development which my statistics suggest will serve MLS well.

I recently recruited 202 survey participants from the Facebook fan pages of five MLS teams, and Hispanics accounted for 25% of survey participants. I acknowledge the economic bias of my recruitment method; however, I contend the disparity between immigrants and first-generation survey participants is indeed indicative of a trend amongst MLS fans.

First-generation Americans accounted for 76% of Hispanic respondents, with immigrants accounting for the remaining 24%. The lack of second-generation Hispanic-Americans, indicates first-generation Hispanic-Americans of the Baby Boomer generation assimilated into American culture through football, basketball and baseball, and did not communicate a passion for soccer to their children. First-generation Hispanic-Americans from Generation X did not face the discrimination of their predecessors, and gravitated to soccer without the fear of being ostracized. This generation will produce a second-generation of Hispanic-Americans whom share a passion for soccer with their fathers. However, to maximize the potential of the Hispanic demographic, MLS must attract more Mexican-Americans to its games.

Mexican-Americans account for 68% of Hispanics in the United States, but only 30% of Hispanic survey respondents. It has been theorized that Mexican-Americans have been slow to adopt MLS because of the availability of Mexican First Division matches on Spanish language television in the United States. Mexican-Americans can continue to follow teams in their native country, unlike their Central and South American counterparts. Furthermore, the escalating rivalry amongst the national teams of Mexico and the United States, inhibits many Mexican immigrants from accepting any form of American soccer. Mexican immigrants’ indignation towards American soccer will not transcend generations.

MLS provides first-generation Hispanic-Americans the opportunity to define their American identity, without abandoning their cultural attachment to the sport of soccer. First-generation Hispanic-Americans from Generation X have proven that they will embrace MLS. Therefore, it stands to reason that first-generation Hispanic-Americans of the Millennial generation will continue to gravitate to the league. Their support, in conjunction with their second-generation counterparts, provides a reassuring confidence to MLS; the only professional sports league which is expanding domestically.

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