World Cup, most popular ‘football’: North Dakota prefers a different football

Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 6:52 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The FIFA World Cup is the second most-watched sporting event in the world with 3.3 billion viewers. In North Dakota, however, the number of “football” fans watching the sport’s premier event is not quite as high as in other countries of the world.

A couple of avid North Dakota soccer fans were glued to their flatscreen TV Monday afternoon, watching Team USA take on Wales in the opening round of the Word Cup.

“Super exciting, we’ve got a really fun, young team this year. We weren’t able to make it in 2018, which was kind of a bummer, first time in a long time we weren’t in, but now we’re back on the world stage. Fun team, a lot of young guys that are playing overseas and doing well in the big leagues, so hopefully that will carry over and we can make some noise this year,” said Andrew Steinwand.

Even though the World Cup is one of the most popular sporting events worldwide, many Bismarck residents are not sharing in the excitement.

“I know very little about the World Cup. I know it’s in the Middle East this year. I know there have been a few glitches I think with the opening ceremony and the first few games, but since our kids were little we really haven’t watched a lot of soccer,” said Lance Hill.

Soccer may be the most popular sport on the planet, but in North Dakota, a different type of football is widely accepted as the most popular sport.

“Minnesota Vikings, Bison college team, that’s kind of the key around here, that’s how you get everyone to love you and watch those games, but I think if there’s one thing that Americans like to do, it’s winning. So, if we win a few games, I think you’ll start seeing the fans coming out of the woodwork here,” said Steinwand.

This year’s World Cup may just be a turning point for North Dakota soccer fan numbers if the USA can reach the second round of the tournament.

“Soccer’s going to have their turn, and everyone’s going to be watching at this point and this has been one of our best teams in many years, so I’m pretty excited for them to maybe gain some popularity now,” said Scott Mann.

Team USA played their first game Monday against Wales and the game ended in a 1-all tie.

World Cup, Qatar 2022 will continue until December 18 as teams around the world battle for the title of the best soccer team in the world. Team USA hasn’t played in a World Cup since 2014, as they didn’t qualify in 2018.