Let’s get down to business! Soccer, or football, as the world’s most popular sport, must evolve in order to maintain its popularity.
Otherwise, participation rates in mature countries will undoubtedly fall further. The FIFAs, UEFAs, and CONCACAF of the world are mega-conservative institutional bodies.
Still, these federations will be forced to implement new strategies sooner rather than later, owing to pressure from new, much younger audiences and COVID-19. The latter is an ugly beast, but it has several positive side effects, as it will most likely accelerate change in the future.
GenZ and GenAlpha are diametrically opposed
So, who are these younger demographics? Generations Z and Alpha are the children born between 2000 and today. Without a doubt, these generations will be not only the future but also the major innovators. They are, however, vastly different from previous generations.
These screenagers are born into a world surrounded by technology. They eat, sleep, and breathe it! They will be global citizens with a concise attention span, a preference for socializing with friends, their own media consumption habits, a strong interest in social media, and a strong sense of independence and pragmatism.
This is no small matter! You can predict what will happen if you know that by 2030, Gen Alpha and Gen Z will account for 45% of the workforce. Remember, that is only 10 years away!
It will have far-reaching consequences in the world of sports. Many sports will have to adapt in order to maintain their market share. If not, they will be kicked out. Clearly, it will be extremely difficult for extremely conservative federations such as FIFA. However, I believe that in the end, common sense will prevail.
Below are 12 predictions about how soccer will change and what it might look like in the future if federations like FIFA adjust in time. These forecasts concern not only the sport itself but also the fans, businesses, and media that surround it. Some are fairly obvious, while others may be a little more controversial and out of the ordinary.
Soccer Future Prediction 1
Technology will become increasingly important.
As we see technology spread all around us, this is clearly one of the more obvious predictions. It is straightforward. The tech generations are the new screenager generations, GenZ and GenAlpha. Everything they do and experience has a technological component.
They have been surrounded by iPhones, Samsungs, and other electronic devices since birth. They almost believe these devices more than their parents. They feel naked without technology. As previously stated, these generations rapidly become more significant cohorts in the overall population mix. As a result, if a sport wants to remain popular, it must incorporate technology into the mix.
Obviously, but at a glacial pace, football has been introducing technology into the game, such as the Video Assistant Referee and goal-line technology, or football clubs introducing sensor technology to analyze players’ fitness and performance levels, as well as opponents’ tactics. This will not suffice in the future. Fans, players, club owners, media, and others will demand far more. What should you consider? So, do you have a moment?
The soccer ball will most likely change. The future soccer ball will be outfitted with chips, sensors, and cameras. Such a ball will be able to track kicks, touches, passes, distance traveled, playing time, and so on. This will be beneficial not only to coaches, but also to referees. Media and broadcasters will also be pleased because new camera angles will give viewers a fresh perspective.
What about the participants? They can improve their technique by receiving immediate feedback from such a ball.
Finally, die-hard fans will be overjoyed because this technology will provide them with a bird’s-eye view as well as a wealth of new data and statistics that they can access using their hololens or Augmented Reality apps on their phone. It will also provide him with tools for live betting in the stadium. Watch the video below!
But there’s so much more! Imagine future players being equipped with micro sensors, such as sensors embedded in their shirts or shoes, or wearing micro camera lenses or having nanochips implanted in their bodies. Of course, sensor technology is already in use, but primarily for (coaching) analysis.
These technologies will be made available to fans in the future. This tech-savvy future fan wants to be able to watch the game from the perspective of his favorite player, for example. He wants to know how a player feels, hears, senses, and how fast he kicks a ball, among other things. Assume that a fan’s club jersey vibrates when a player is hit.
In fact, there are numerous opportunities! In any case, these are only a few examples of new technology that will play a role; there will be many more. For example, robotics and artificial intelligence were not even mentioned. To learn more, check out my blog post on the ten technologies that will significantly impact sports.
To summarize, technology must enter the game for soccer to maintain its status. It will mean that the capital required for this will increase.
Soccer Future Prediction 2
Globalization and increased capital intensity will result in the formation of new international cross-border leagues.
It is unmistakable. The world is rapidly globalizing. Fans, clubs, and the media are no longer focused locally but rather globally. Every trend is moving in this direction. Let us begin with the fan!
The modern (younger) fan is unconcerned about working or living abroad. With today’s technology, one can do their job from anywhere, and this trend is not going away. COVID-19 has demonstrated that you can do your job from anywhere worldwide as long as you have your laptop.
At the same time, the future fan no longer associates with the local team. No, he cares more about what Barcelona or Manchester United are doing. In fact, those are the teams he frequently represents on his Sony Playstation while playing FIFA 2020. Finally, modern media and technology ensure that modern fans can follow their team wherever they are. Conclusion: location is no longer important!
Aside from the fan, clubs are becoming increasingly global. Foreign fans and regions with low participation rates are excellent additional revenue sources. These revenues are required to cover the sports’ ever-increasing capital intensity. International soccer is becoming increasingly commercial and lucrative.
As sports become more global, investments in players and technology will increase to stay ahead of the competition. This arms race will continue, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
Smaller clubs will struggle to keep up. It means that, in the end, the world’s biggest clubs will form cross-border leagues to meet the needs of fans, sponsors, and the media. Smaller clubs will likely form alliances in local leagues and serve as feeders. Fans will support both their international team, which will provide them with a premium experience, and their local team.
Soccer Future Prediction 3
Women’s soccer will continue to grow in importance.
This is another no-brainer. Gender equality and inclusion of all are strongly supported by current and future generations. Women’s rights should be equal. Gays should be welcomed and encouraged to come out. Racism is no longer acceptable. New-generation fans and players are much more willing to speak out on these issues, and clubs and federations will most likely respond in kind.
Women’s soccer is one of the areas where significant progress can be made. It has happened over the last decade. Participation has skyrocketed and is expected to continue as the number of female fans and players grows around the world.
It is a cohort in which FIFA can still make up significant ground, partially compensating for declining male participation rates in mature countries. It may also appeal to club owners and sponsors to generate additional revenue and attract new fans needed to cover their investments.
Soccer Future Prediction 4
The format of the game will change as the game becomes more intense.
It cannot be denied, as evidenced by the statistics. Soccer, also known as football, is becoming a more intense sport. Football is becoming a faster game, with players’ technical abilities becoming increasingly important. The number of sprints and high-intensity actions has increased and will continue to rise, resulting in higher performance levels.
This has serious ramifications. It means that players’ physical requirements are becoming increasingly demanding. It also implies that actual playing time will be reduced even further, as we have seen in recent years. This is the logical result of players’ inability to keep up with the pace. It is already taking place. Many injuries occur as a result of high-intensity games. For clubs, this means capital destruction.
Given the likelihood that this trend will continue, I am confident that match formats will be altered at some point in the future. This can range from allowing more substitutes (or, as in hockey, changing as often as you want during the game) to drinking breaks, shorter game duration, quarters instead of halves, and so on.
It could also imply that the larger clubs will sign more high-quality players in order to give the rest of the others and thus preserve capital. This will benefit large clubs that can afford such investments. As small clubs lose this game, the demand for an international (level playing) league grows louder (see prediction 2)!
If I had to guess, I’d say that a game will have more breaks than just the one at halftime right now. This will not only give the players time to rest, but it will also give the modern fan more time to enjoy entertainment, socializing, and food and beverages. Purists will be upset, but reality and pragmatism will prevail sooner rather than later.
Soccer Future Prediction 5
Robots will increasingly do refereeing.
Ray Kurzweil predicted it in his excellent book The Singularity is Near. With the exponential advancement of technologies such as genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, and nanotechnology, the day will not be far away when machine intelligence will be more precise and powerful than human intelligence. It’s true, not made up! Soccer cannot and will not escape!
The recently introduced VAR (Video Assistant Referee) has sparked much debate, with purists opposing it and other groups applauding it for making the game fairer. Yes, it occasionally interferes with the match, but on the other hand, it creates fairness and a much-needed time-out for the players (see prediction 4).
As we have seen in other sports, fairness will triumph in the end. Electronic refereeing is not far off, thanks to camera, sensor, and AI technology advances. Furthermore, decisions will be made quickly and without debate as technology advances.
Without a doubt, it will take time, and the federations will be slow, arguing that the game of football should be the same all over the world, but the call for fairness and commercial importance for clubs will ultimately prevail. Yes, there will still be a referee for a while to settle a dispute, but the computer will increasingly make calls!
Soccer Future Prediction 6
As a result of Virtual Reality and holographic technology, there are various ways to watch a game.
Being a soccer fan in the future entails more than just going to the stadium or watching the game on TV. Get rid of the notion that watching a game live in a stadium is the ultimate experience. What are your thoughts on Virtual Reality? The technology already exists, and clubs will undoubtedly implement it as soon as possible because it will result in additional revenue.
Consider yourself sitting on your couch at home, holding a beer, and wearing your headset. You turn to your left and see your London buddy sitting next to you in the seats of the stadium you used to frequent. You’re both talking to each other while watching the game. It will be authentic, and you will not have to travel for it!
Assume your team, Ajax Amsterdam, is playing Real Madrid in Madrid. You’d love to be in the stadium right now. That is something that will be possible in the future. You can watch the game live with the rest of the fans at your local stadium in Amsterdam.
The only difference is that the players you see are not real (they are playing in Madrid). No, they are simply live holographic representations of the real players, but the difference is negligible. You’ll just enjoy the great game atmosphere and your beer.
Again, this may take some time, but it will come. Aside from football, consider Olympic hub cities, where you can have a similar experience during the Olympics. Lower costs, lower CO2 emissions, and so on.
Obviously, this will necessitate capital, but it will also increase stadium utilization and generate additional returns for stakeholders to recoup their investments.
Soccer Future Prediction 7
E-sports will be used to attract younger generations.
Generation Z and Generation Alpha have grown up playing soccer on their Sony PlayStations. They have been associated with players and teams during that time. E-platforms and E-sports are in their DNA. This should be a breeze for soccer teams.
Incorporating soccer games and popular E-athletes into the real game may entice them to participate. By targeting children through e-sports teams bearing their club’s name, these new generations may begin to support real soccer teams as well. When I play FIFA and imagine myself as Barcelona or Messi, I am drawn to the real Barcelona team as well. E-sports could become an appealing promotional tool for attracting new fans and revenue.
Soccer Future Prediction 8
Footainment will play a much larger role in product offerings.
Suppose soccer is to meet the needs and desires of new generations while also aligning with the product offerings of other sports. In that case, it must introduce far more entertainment than it currently does. Soccer alone will not suffice. Football and entertainment should go together.
It is what future fans want and will get, especially since clubs and stadiums require additional funds to cover their investments. Given the demographic changes, American sports must lead the way, and soccer must follow.
I anticipate that a football game will become a day at the stadium rather than a 90-minute game with no other entertainment. The modern fan wants to have fun and be entertained before, during, and after the game. This means that technology once again comes to the rescue.
What should you consider? Consider multi-screen and interactive personalized experiences; this implies shareable and one-of-a-kind content that cannot be experienced by watching the game at home or outside the stadium.
5G (lower latency), AR, VR, and AI (think data and learning to know the fan) will all play critical roles in the future.
The experience should be memorable for the fan. He should be able to place bets with his friends, drink a beer on one of the stadium’s terraces, take a picture with a hologram of his favorite player, see mascotte holograms flying around the stadium, see the latest real-time statistics of his team or favorite player, and participate in sweepstakes and games.
I believe you understand that simply playing the game will not suffice. That means a future soccer game will be a soccer-plus experience!
The Importance of Artificial Intelligence in Soccer Prediction 9
You may have heard of FC Midtjylland, a small Danish soccer club that became the Danish champion in just a few years, thanks to its data-driven and analytical approach. In 2014, professional gambler Steve Benham took over the club and introduced mathematics. It paid off handsomely!
What American football and baseball have been using for a long time is slowly making its way into soccer. Artificial intelligence will be a hugely important tool in the future, and the frontrunners will win as a result. Midtjylland is not a place for romantic football fans.
It’s the type of traditional football disruptor. Disruptors or first movers, as you may know, are here to stay. Data will become an increasingly powerful force! Watch this interesting documentary if you’re interested.
Soccer Future Prediction 10
Fan Engagement and Gamification Will Gain Popularity
Fans increasingly want to be involved in their club’s decision-making, which is an unstoppable trend. Soccer will not be exempt from this trend. Consider the young child who chooses his team’s lineup, tactics, and so on when playing FIFA 2020. Consider the fantasy sports player who is also in charge.
Generation Alpha and Generation Z are accustomed to making their own decisions. They are technologically savvy and know what strategy they want to employ. In the real world, things aren’t much different. Fans want to be a part of the action.
There are numerous examples of fans involved in decisions such as logos, club jerseys, general manager appointments, etc. Check out Socios.com, which is a great platform for this.
However, there is more. Fans have strong feelings about what should happen during the game while in the stadium. They want a say when a manager wants to substitute a certain player, a say in the starting lineup, and so on. There are numerous other possibilities. Read this famous French football manager Arsene Wenger’s quotes.
Doesn’t it make sense when you think about it? It’s crowd wisdom and repeatedly been proven that this wisdom is precious. Consider the success of AG Caen, where fans essentially play football manager with the real team. Polls are taken during the game, and a manager may take the club’s advice.
So far, the team has been enormously successful, and the fans adore it. It demonstrates the power of fan participation. Although federation will most likely be a significant barrier, I believe that interactive involvement will enter the world of soccer at some point in the future.
Soccer Future Prediction 11
The landscape of soccer media and broadcasting will change. The cost of rights will rise.
If one thing is certain, it is that the media landscape will shift. Traditional TV networks will lose share because the new generation is uninterested in them. Because media income is such an important part of soccer’s revenue mix, a key question will be who will own the media rights.
Will it be social media platforms that broadcast live sports events in order to attract viewers and leverage their platforms? Will it be solely video-on-demand players? Will sports federations, leagues, and clubs launch their own platforms?
Will it be the content creators attempting to become the Netflix of sports, or will it be Amazon’s Twitch subsidiary pursuing interactive lifestreaming (already a major form of entertainment in E-sports)?
Or, perhaps, it will be traditional TV networks venturing out and leveraging their content into new media, either independently or in collaboration with experienced parties.
Right now, nothing is certain! In any case, with all of these parties competing, the battle for content will heat up. As a result, prices for rights/content will undoubtedly rise. By the way, don’t be surprised if FIFA launches its own network.
A lot of things will happen in terms of content. Expect 4D camera drones to become more involved in broadcasting action from incredible angles. Players should be equipped with small cameras. Expect plenty of new soccer-related content. Formats should be much faster.
With lower production costs, fan-created content will become more popular. And, yes, so far, soccer has been able to prohibit cameras from entering the locker room, but this will undoubtedly change!
Soccer Future Prediction 12
Asian countries will rapidly gain ground, and there are several reasons. Artificial intelligence, for example, will help the game move forward, and Asia is certainly ready to use such technology if it pays off. Furthermore, soccer in those countries is still underdeveloped; in the end, it will be a numbers game.
Major soccer clubs are eager to attract more fans in these countries in order to increase revenue. As a result, expect investments to be made in countries that will gain popularity. If popularity grows, it will only be a matter of time before the level of play improves. Korea and Japan are good examples of countries that will gain ground. China will undoubtedly join these countries.
Soccer Future Prediction Final Thoughts
You may agree or disagree, but we are confident that some of these predictions will come true. Some of the more unconventional ones may be difficult to accept by purists and conservative bodies such as FIFA, but pragmatism and supply and demand will triumph in the end. Please let us know what you think and share any additional thoughts.