The FIFA World Cup is the most-watched sports event in the world. The 2022 edition started on Nov. 20. and has been drawing more attention from U.S. audiences than previous editions. A large part of the demand for the tournament is driven by the appeal of the world’s most famous soccer players, who are going to be in it. But who leads the pack when it comes to talent demand?
Nowadays, some of the most famous soccer players have broken the sports barrier and are internationally acclaimed stars, being household names even in countries where the sport isn’t highly popular. This is largely due to their presence in commercials, tabloid headlines and even streaming series.
The most in-demand male soccer player in the U.S. is by far Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the world’s most famous soccer player. The demand for Cristiano Ronaldo in the U.S. market is almost twice as high as the demand for Lionel Messi, who places second in our ranking and Ronaldo’s lifelong rival. Although it’s hard to say who has the most successful career, it’s safe to say that Ronaldo has been more competent in exploring his public image. The Portuguese player had Netflix documentaries made about him and his family and established a personal brand for himself, while Lionel Messi is a more discreet person, having few appearances outside of the soccer field.
Surprisingly, the third most in-demand male soccer player is Fernando Torres, a retired player who is, alongside Kylian Mbappe, one of the only players on that list that has ever won a World Cup. Torres is also the only one on that list that isn’t involved in the 2022 World Cup.
The demand ranking over the week before the World Cup opening and the first week of the competition also reflects some players’ performance in the first games of the tournament. That’s the case for Richarlison de Andrade, the Brazilian player who scored twice during his country’s first game; Guillermo Ochoa, the veteran Mexican goalkeeper who saved a penalty during the match against Poland; and Timothy Weah, who scored the U.S.’s first goal in the tournament and has become his country’s most in-demand soccer player.
American audiences seem to have a preference for Brazilian soccer players. That country is responsible for 18.2% of the total demand for male soccer players in the U.S. so far in November. Historically, Brazil has been the world’s top hotbed for world-class soccer players, with Neymar Jr. being currently the most famous of them. His fame reached a whole new level in 2019, when he made a cameo in an episode of the third season of “La Casa de Papel.”
Most of the demand for male soccer players in the U.S. is for players from countries with a long tradition in that sport. The country with the second-largest demand share is the United Kingdom, where soccer was invented, and a country that has a relevant number of players playing in the American soccer organization, Major League Soccer. The U.K. is followed by Spain, France, Argentina and Portugal, home to some of the top contenders for the 2022 World Cup title and several key players of the tournament, including the two biggest names, Ronaldo and Messi.
U.S. players are responsible for 6.3% of the total demand for soccer players in their country. The demand for American players is driven by the expectation that some of the country’s more promising rising stars, like Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah, might help the U.S. go farther in the tournament.
Daniel Quinaud is a senior data analyst at Parrot Analytics, a WrapPRO partner. For more from Parrot Analytics, visit the Data and Analysis Hub.