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Soccer's rising in the US, but can it break into the big leagues?

Soccer Fans Gather To Watch US Team's Knockout Stage Match Against Belgium

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Christian Raja, of Brooklyn, reacts while watching the United States versus Belgium game in the World Cup on a projected screen under the Manhattan Bridge on July 1, 2014 in the Dumbo neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York, United States. Belgium went on to eliminate the U.S. from the World Cup in overtime with a final score 2-1.

The U.S. may be out of the World Cup, but the team's exciting run brought renewed attention to soccer here. For the time being, other sports such as basketball and football still retain top billing, both with fans and commercial interests.

But could that change?

Perhaps the strongest indicator is growth in the country's professional soccer league.

"I think it's fair to say that Major League Soccer is booming," Mike Woitalla, executive editor of Soccer America magazine, said on Take Two. "There are 19 teams now and they're going to be up to 21 in 2015."

That growth also extends to the business side.

"Attendance is averaging about 18,000 and almost half the teams are being valued around $100 million," says Woitalla. "That's the kind of money that new franchises are paying to get in the league."

Some big name signings — French player Thierre Henry, Brazilian star Kaká and the return to the U.S. of American players Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley after stints in Europe — a growing, younger audience and a recent big TV deal with Fox, ESPN and Univision all add up for a bright future, says Woitalla.

Still, the sport still lags behind other traditionally-popular sports like basketball and football. As journalist Rick Newman writes, both a financial and cultural divide could hold soccer back from breaking out after the World Cup. He points out that an NFL team is still worth 17 times as much as a professional soccer team, despite the $100 million figure.

Whether soccer can really compete in the big leagues will take time to see.

"It has to be attractive, it has to be entertaining," says Woitalla. "It  has to offer something that the other sports don't."


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