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soccer feedback

Harris Poll

Soccer’s popularity continues to soar.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Friday, October 16, 1998) -- Soccer's critics remain legion in the United States.

They are quick to point out:

* Attendance remains flat in Major League Soccer, averaging 14,312.
* Television viewing is still abysmally low, at .9 for ABC telecasts.
* The U.S. national team finished last, 32nd, in the 1998 World Cup.
* Quality of play remains below that of the top European leagues.

That's all correct. But pollster Humphrey Taylor just released his annual Harris Survey on sports preferences, and buried in the statistics was this significant fact: Soccer is followed by 17 percent of the nation's adults, compared with 10 percent in 1985 and 13 percent in 1997.

That's a 70 percent increase in 13 years, which is very significant. This doesn't make soccer one of the major American players, but it compares favorably with the fourth so-called major sport -- hockey, which has remained flat at 20 percent since 1994.

Furthermore, hockey and soccer television ratings are similar -- both very low.

And when the poll asked respondents what their favorite sport was, 4 percent said soccer . . . and 3 percent listed hockey.

The Harris Survey was conducted September 9-13 of a cross-section of 1,009 adults.

Pro football remained No. 1 on sports followed, with 66 percent.

Others:

Baseball, 57 percent.
College football, 49 percent.
Pro basketball, 44 percent.
College basketball, 30 percent.
Golf, 27 percent.
Tennis, 25 percent.
Auto racing, 22 percent.
Track and field, 21 percent.
Hockey, 20 percent.
Women's pro basketball, 18 percent.
Soccer, 17 percent.
Women's college basketball, 15 percent.
Horse racing, 13 percent.
Bowling, 10 percent.

Pro football also is No. 1 as the favorite sport, cited by 26 percent of poll respondents.

Others:

Baseball, 18 percent.
Men's pro basketball, 13 percent.
College football, 9 percent.
Auto racing, 7 percent.
Men's college basketball, 4 percent.
Golf, 4 percent.
Tennis, 4 percent.
Soccer, 4 percent.
Hockey, 3 percent.
Track and field, 3 percent.
Horse racing, 2 percent.
Bowling, 2 percent.
Women's college basketball, 1 percent.

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at jlangdon@gns.gannett.com.

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