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Sports Industry: A Research Guide


Ken Light, photographer. Soccer game, San Pedro, California. 1989. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

Soccer is a sport with overwhelming global appeal which continues to grow with an ever-expanding audience. Referred to as football in the rest of the world, professional soccer is truly an international sport. Estimates suggest that there are over 240 million registered players worldwide with fan participation in the billions.

The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) founded in 1904, serves as the international governing body of soccer and is composed of both men's and women's clubs from around the globe and is currently made up of 205 member associations with over 300,000 clubs and 240 million players. The president of FIFA is elected by the member organizations every four years and serves as the legal representative of the body and officiates at FIFA meetings.

In 1954, FIFA began the creation of continental soccer (international football) confederations. A conference for Europe, the Union des Associations Europeennes de Football (UEFA) comprised of 25 member nations, was the first to be established, followed by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The Oceania Football Confederation was the last confederation to join FIFA, initially in 1966 and then becoming a fully sanctioned member in 1996. All member nations clubs within each confederation compete for the World Cup, the championship trophy awarded to the best soccer team in the international league. There is both a Men's and Women's World Cup competition. Currently, FIFA is divided into six confederations and each confederation is responsible for governing the games of its member countries, with some autonomy, according to FIFA rules and regulations.

  • Asian Football Confederation (AFC) — 45 member nations
  • Confederation Africaine de Football (CAF) — 52 member nations
  • Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) — 35 member nations
  • Confederacion Sudamericana de Futbol (CONMEBOL)
  • Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) — 11 member nations
  • Union des Associations Europeennes de Football — 51 member nations

In the United States and Canada, Major League Soccer (MLS) the men's professional soccer league was founded in 1993 as part of the United States' successful bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The United States Soccer Federation sanctions MLS and there are a total of 27 teams with 24 in the United States and the 3 in Canada with plans to expand by 2023. The season is 34 games; it starts in late February or early March, and runs through mid-October ending in a 14-team playoff culminating in the MLS Cup. The league has become more profitable since its founding gaining visibility and money though TV contracts and the addition Designated Player Rule which allowed teams to sign star players such as David Beckham and Wayne Rooney.

In April 2021, twelve elite English, Spanish and Italian clubs announced a Super League leaving the existing UEFA-run Champions League but within several days the teams in England (Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea) reversed course and other teams like Inter Milan were also expected to withdraw from the proposed league.


FIFA functions as a non-profit organization and most of its revenue is derived from TV broadcast rights and advertisements for the World Cup™ though the sale of licensing rights generates millions as well. Annual budgets are submitted to the FIFA Congress for approval each year and are considered cash budgets and include FIFA expenditures consisting mostly of operational costs and competitions, contributions to players, the confederations, and FIFA development programs.

During the first 20 years of FIFA's existence, its revenue was primarily generated from subscriptions from its associations and game levies, as well as increasing revenues from the World Cup™. After 1982, FIFA expanded its commercial ventures including advertising and merchandising with the most significant increases in revenue being in TV and marketing rights, which have continued to increase over time. Additionally, the Federation receives a portion of the gross receipts from "A" matches or games played between national teams with the amount being determined by the Federation.

Media and Marketing

FIFA's largest revenue generator is broadcasting of the World Cup.™ Billions tune in making it one of the most widely viewed sporting event in the world. Europe and the U.S. are the two largest markets in generating revenue from television broadcasting rights and the cost of the TV licensing rights agreement is expected to continue rise.

The Internet is also playing a role in the growing popularity of soccer. FIFA's official World Cup™ web site reached an unprecedented number of viewers worldwide. FIFA has also begun to utilize the Internet for its marketing strategies through selling and promoting game tickets and other Word Cup™ marketing products.


Millions of people around the world play soccer in local clubs, and the salaries of these players vary dramatically. European players are the most highly paid, but salary distribution and management varies. For instance, player salaries of many UK soccer clubs account for nearly 60% of club revenues while the U.S. Major Soccer League (MLS) institutes a player salary budget for each club.

The U.S. Major Soccer League is a member of FIFA, but it operates as a single entity, which contracts players with the league rather than with individual MLS teams. Each MLS team is given an annual salary budget and is required to manage the roster salaries according to the team budget. Major League Soccer Players Union (U.S.) has published salary information on individual players since 2007 on their web site but coming up with league totals is more of an issue.

Like many other professional sports, free agency has resulted in the dramatic increase in player salaries and fees paid for player contract purchases. This has led to growing income disparities between wealthy and poorer soccer clubs, and the vast difference in salaries between the new FIFA member clubs and the older more established soccer clubs has had an impact on the player talent gap. FIFA also contributes funding for player salaries in addition to contributing a small amount towards teams and participants. The players and teams participating in the World Cup receive the majority of their additional earnings from the World Cup matches rather than the through FIFA contributions.

Books & Periodicals

These are just a few of the more business-themed resources related to soccer. Note that there may also be relevant information in the General Resources section of this guide.

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Internet Resources

We have included some resources that are not business specific in an effort to provide sources that can help researchers understand the sport itself and its structure.

Papers & Reports

Official Sites


Search the Library's Catalog

If you are looking to search the catalog for more general titles see the Search the Library's Catalog page. Additional works on professional soccer business in the Library of Congress may be identified by searching the Online Catalog under appropriate Library of Congress subject headings. Choose the topics you wish to search from the following list of subject headings to link directly to the Catalog and automatically execute a search that will allow you to browse related subject headings. Please be aware that during periods of heavy use you may encounter delays in accessing the catalog. If you are looking for soccer (or football) in outer countries you can replace "United States" with the name of another country.  For assistance in locating the many other subject headings which relate to the soccer business, please consult a reference librarian.