What will the professional sports landscape look like 20 years from now? I’ve been pondering this question lately as a lot of the sports we know and love are experiencing drastic changes. I thought it might be fun to think about what is going to change, what will be the same, and how the major sports will rank in popularity.
For the sake of organization, we will look at them from what I perceive will be the least popular to the most popular. Let’s take a look, shall we?
5. MLB. It is kind of sad to see the MLB continue to dip in popularity. The league as a whole has seen a decrease in TV ratings as well as attendance year over year and the future could be tough for professional baseball.
In 2018, there are fewer and fewer people who want to sit still for a 4 hour game with so many other viable forms of entertainment available. Just imagine how much more we can do with our time in 2038? America’s game will not disappear, but it’ll be the least popular professional sport.
4. NHL. For those of you who know me, I don’t really care about the NHL or hockey in general. However, I am not ignorant to its popularity. Attendance has been steady year over year around the league and I don’t really think things will change.
The games are exciting to watch, don’t take too long, and their playoffs are potentially the most exciting of the professional leagues. The NHL should remain healthy in the next 20 years.
3. MLS. The skeptics will come out like wildfire for this one. Soccer is a very polarizing sport and people have been claiming it will sweep over the US for like 30 years. Although it definitely hasn’t done any sweeping, it has taken strides to increase in popularity. They are up to 23 teams currently and are likely to continue growing.
If you need some local evidence, look at the 20,000 seat stadium our Loons are building over in St. Paul. It has been an uphill battle, but in 20 years the MLS will finally be brought up in the conversation of relevant professional sports leagues.
2. NFL. This is where some you might think I am a heretic, but I encourage you to keep reading. America’s game is in some deep trouble. As doctors continue to learn more about concussions, players will continue to make educated decisions about when to step away from the game. The NFL continues to react by trying to make a very violent game safer.
Let’s be honest, we watch football because the violence. We enjoy when a linebacker smacks a receiver trying to catch the ball across the middle or when a lineman crushes a quarterback. As the game continues to become “safer”, the version of football that we all know and love will start to fade into our memories.
The biggest positive for the NFL is that they only have a 16 game schedule where every game counts. However, will fans care if there are 16 games that hardly resemble the game they grew up loving? It will take time, but the NFL is going to decrease in popularity, and potentially cease to exist.
1. NBA. Last but not least is the NBA. Although I am a basketball guy, this thought is not based on my love of the game, but rather on trends and facts. Last season, the NBA experienced an 8% increase in it’s nationally televised games. They also broke their total attendance record for the 4th straight season.
In 2018, this proposition seems crazy because the NFL is still the alpha-dog when it comes to sports entertainment. However, the NBA is a full on entertainment league that is growing rapidly. The regular season can drag on, but the playoffs are always exciting.
The NBA also has the most marketable stars of any league that helps boosts its popularity in the Twitter-age. Players have enough power to be able to make decisions for themselves, allowing thrilling off-seasons full of crazy signings, trades, and combinations of players that are intriguing to watch.
In 2018, saying the NBA will be more popular than the NFL is a laughable proposition. But when the NFL resembles flag football more than tackle football, the NBA will be there to take its place.