The (English) Premier League is widely considered to be the top footballing product on the planet. The most recent Premier League campaign ended on Sunday with Manchester City winning the title for the second successive season, becoming the first team to repeat as champions in a decade.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post‘s Steve Goff one of the deans of American soccer reported that the West Palm Beach media market ranked the highest in the country outside the traditional top two (Baltimore and Washington D.C.) for market share viewership on NBC and NBCSN of the Premier League. The West Palm Beach TV market includes Palm Beach, Martin, St Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River Counties.
Palm Beach County has witnessed a proliferation in local semi-pro teams since Boca Raton FC began play in 2015 and won its league that included teams from all over the region, four successive seasons. Today, ten teams from the county play in the UPSL alone, a national league who had multiple teams including Miami-Dade-based Florida Soccer Soliders defeat professional teams this week in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
This season the UPSL has its own Palm Beach County conference, since critical mass has been reached in terms of local teams.
“I’ve noticed the growth of soccer in Palm Beach County, and to give the teams over there a league of there own and help push the momentum of growth I regionalized play in south Florida,” said Christian Vallejos the USPL Conference Manager for Florida.
Youth soccer infrastructure is strong in Palm Beach County, with its higher-income suburbs yet increasing population of immigrants from South and Central America. Some around the sport claim Palm Beach County’s infrastructure is the best for the sport at the grassroots level in the state.
“While surprising for many outside of Palm Beach County, the viewing figures for Premier League games in my area illustrate how popular soccer is and how well NBC Sports does in televising the English league,.” said Christopher Harris publisher of World Soccer Talk, a Miami-based publication that covers soccer media worldwide. Harris lives in Lake Worth.
“With a population of 1.4 million and no professional sports teams other than minor league baseball, Palm Beach County is an untapped market. Youth soccer in Palm Beach County is huge. Plus the county has a mix of different ethnicities as well as a high income per capita that make the county a great market for soccer on television,” Harris said.
Palm Beach County provided 18% of season ticket holders in 2014 to the defunct Fort Lauderdale Strikers who shuttered operations in 2017. Now Major League Soccer will launch a new team for the region in Fort Lauderdale next season. The club operated by Coral Gables-based Jorge Mas (the son of Cuban American National Foundation Founder Jorge Mas Canosa) seems to have made a concerted decision to try and attract fans further north in the metropolitan area after having been marketed upon its launch as largely a “Miami” team.
The MLS club which will be known as Inter Miami CF will play at a minimum of two seasons and perhaps longer at a newly rebuilt Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. It will be fascinating to see if youth soccer infrastructure and Premier League fandom lead to a boom of ticket sales and interest in the new MLS club.
Palm Beach County or the Treasure Coast in its own right might be able to play home to a professional soccer team in the future. Lower divisions USL and NISA should give the region a proper look for a new club down the line.