The State of Soccer Pubs in the U.S.

Although professional men's soccer in the United States still lags behind much of the rest of the world, league soccer from other countries is gaining popularity in the U.S. The selection of league games available to patrons of American soccer bars, however, is still mostly limited to the English Premier League.
Soccer in the U.S.

In the United States, soccer (known elsewhere in the world as football) lags in popularity behind American football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. In most of the rest of the world, soccer is the number one most popular sport, but the situation in the U.S. is a little different. As a result of its relatively small fan base, American men's league soccer is not quite up to par with the rest of the world. Major League Soccer (MLS) is the highest level of league soccer in the U.S., and is composed of only 19 teams, three of which are Canadian teams. By contrast, most countries' top professional leagues include 20 teams. (Even the Faroe Islands, a tiny country with a population around 50,000, has 10 teams in its Premier League.)

Soccer Bars and Pubs

Although MLS leaves something to be desired, international soccer is slowly gaining popularity in the States. Many American soccer fans support English Premier League teams, and a few soccer pubs are starting to pop up in mid-sized cities like Pittsburgh and Denver. These soccer pubs generally broadcast international games, European Champion's League games, and English Premier League games, and can build a respectable clientele. Often, these establishments serve English pub style food and drink, such as fish and chips and Strongbow Hard Cider. This makes the soccer viewing experience all the more immersive for Premier League fans.

Beyond the English Premier League

English soccer is admittedly considered one of the pinnacles of professional league soccer in the world. Still, by focusing only the English league, American soccer bars might be alienating some potential customers. English Premier League (or EPL) soccer is popular, but so are the German Bundesliga, the Brasileirão (the top league in Brazil), and others. In most cities in the U.S., followers of these leagues are unlikely to find a place to watch the games alongside other fans.

International Soccer on Cable Networks

Part of the reason that American soccer pubs don't broadcast Bundesliga games, for example, is that these games have limited availability on cable sports channels. In the United States, ESPN channels broadcast only a small number of soccer games. Fox runs a number of channels devoted to soccer, including FoxSoccerTV, and Fox Soccer Channel, but these channels are usually included only as part of premium cable packages that bar and pub owners could be reluctant to subscribe to.

Even if U.S. soccer pubs and sports bars did subscribe to these channels, the unavailability of non-English league games might not be improved. Like bars and pubs, these soccer channels broadcast English Premier League games above all, followed by UEFA Champions League games. The Scottish Premier League is also broadcast. For German Bundesliga games, Americans have no choice but to purchase MyGermanTV+, a specialty cable network that has exclusive rights to broadcast Bundesliga games.

Outlook: Not So Good

For American fans of leagues outside the United Kingdom, there isn't much recourse available. Patrons of soccer bars should ask the managers of these establishments to broadcast the games they want to see. Most places will be happy to accommodate their customers' requests if at all possible. In other cases, though, finding a way to watch the games via online stream subscription services is still the best choice. Fans can gather around a computer screen or Internet-Ready TV and enjoy watching a Mexican or Japanese league game together, but going "down the pub" (as they say in the U.K.) to see the game remains only a dream.
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