Explaining the Premier League’s Popularity in the United States


Saturday and Sunday mornings used to be bereft of quality sports television in the United States. Today, the television sets that were once oppressed with bad children’s cartoons have been liberated.

Today, they are glued to the English Premier League in record numbers. Let’s examine why the EPL is so popular in the United States.

After all, it’s entirely possible that the Premier League isn’t the best football league in the world any longer. English teams have not had the success of other global giants like Bayern Munich or Real Madrid on the Champions League stage.

Nor do they have the best couple of players in the world. Instead, La Liga boasts the world’s biggest stars in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Still, in the United States, the Premier League is king.

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The most obvious explanation is the similarity in languages. At a very base level, it’s easier for Americans to watch English football because it’s presented in English. Sure, there are subtle differences between the way English is spoken in the US and Great Britain, but both nations can understand one another.

Contrast this to La Liga, whose players conduct their interviews predominantly in Spanish. The broadcasts are in English, but there are still things lost in translation.

It’s more comfortable for Americans to watch native Spanish speakers give their interviews in struggling English than be subjected to an interpreter. Perhaps it’s American arrogance, but it is reality.

The presence of Brits in the US also plays a large role in the Premier League’s success there. Think of those original Premier League fans now living in the States as missionaries of a sort.

They have traveled to America and preached the good news of the Premier League. The ease of language between the two groups made for easily shared fan experiences. US citizens were converted by British, Premier League missionaries.

Still it’s more than commonality of language that allows the Premier League to thrive in the US. The more significant reason that Americans have gravitated to the EPL in record numbers is the passion of the league.

Compare the Premier League to another ultra-popular sport in the US, SEC football. American football in the Southeastern Conference is one of the most valuable TV commodities there is. It isn’t because the southeastern part of the United States features the country’s largest media markets. Instead, it’s valuable because it is a high level product that fans are passionate about.

When you think about it the atmospheres that surround Premier League fixtures and SEC football are quite similar. Both events have extremely passionate fan bases that border on lunacy while supporting their favorite team.

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  • Both drive the discussion of the national media. Scores of citizens from both countries derive at least a portion of their identity from their fandom. When Americans turn on the Premier League they see something that resonates with them. They see the passion and spirit of competition that they appreciate so much in American sports.

    What’s perhaps even more interesting is the room the Premier League has to grow in the United States. There’s already significant chatter about holding EPL fixtures in the US and from my seat, that seems inevitable. The League continues to get more and more exposure too. First it was ESPN carrying a few games a weekend, and now NBC provides access both online and on television to every Premier League fixture each week.

    The Premier League has grabbed the attention of millions of US fans. Part of it is the commonality in language, but the majority of it is the passion that English fans show for their domestic game. That’s what captures the fascination and ultimately the fandom, of American fans.