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...why not football mom, baseball mom, or basketball mom?

Soccer mom, as far as I can tell, is an American term made popular during the 1996 presidential elections, used to describe a key demographic - mothers who, by spending lots of time shuttling their children to and from soccer practice, demonstrate that they were concerned about their children. Other attributes often associated with this demographic are suburban, married, busy, drives a minivan/SUV and so on.

What puzzles me is the choice of sport in the term: why soccer? Globally, soccer is an extremely popular sport, but there are many sports more popular than it in USA, and I imagine this would extend to after-school activities. I see that in Canada there's the equivalent term hockey mom which makes more sense.

Was the term coined in a place and time where soccer was a more natural choice? Is soccer a more prominent sport in the after-school world? Or was there some other historical accident?

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This is due to US culture. It is a condescension of soccer football in comparison to other sports. Soccer football now occupies the position once held by baseball as the egalitarian's children's past time. Soccer football is comparatively less expensive to initiate our children into having a game, not requiring mindless financial investments to start with. –  Blessed Geek Jun 26 at 4:41
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@Kris soccer mom predates hockey mom by ten years. –  Mari-Lou A Jun 26 at 8:17
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I have no support for this theory, but I thought it was due to simple... assonance? Parachesis? It rolls off the tongue easier than other sports. Maybe that's not the reason behind the coinage of the term, but I don't think anything could convince me that didn't play a role in the terms rise to prominence, which I mainly attribute to television news (whose reporters are hardly renowned for their creativity). –  Patrick M Jun 26 at 14:58
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I think the reason for it is that the "o" in soccer has the same vowel sound as the "o" in mom, thus the term has a better ring to it than "baseball mom" or "football mom" or most other sports plus mom. Hockey mom has a similar such sound to it, but hockey isn't as commonly played as soccer, so "soccer mom" seems more logical. –  Kai Jun 26 at 15:29
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Football, Baseball, and Basketball occur during the school year, and at least half the transportation is handled by the schools by default. While some schools have soccer teams, most soccer happens separate from school in the summer months when school is dismissed, and thus requires more parental involvement for active participants. –  Adam Davis Jun 26 at 22:59

15 Answers 15

As an American mom whose kids I shuttled to and from soccer (along with their dad, who played basketball in HS/college), I would like to give an opinion.

Baseball/football/basketball are the big three here. When my kids were very, very young, the sport for little kids was tee-ball, a version of baseball/softball where the ball is not pitched but sits on a tee as does a golf ball (taller, of course). After tee-ball, a child would graduate to "Little League", which was "the" game for kids (esp. boys, but girls, too) to play (and as adults to softball). At about that time, soccer was hitting the US in a big way. A lot of the emphasis on young children's sports shifted away from tee-ball and little league to soccer, probably because tee-ball is still more demanding for a child's coordination than soccer, and out of a desire to join the rest of the western world in their preoccupation with the sport.

The largest category of soccer in the United States in terms of participation is boys' and girls' youth soccer. Soccer is one of the most played sports by children in the United States.

Unfortunately, in the beginning, this children's sport was mainly one of the upper and middle classes, a very important demographic for politicians, as women vote more often than men, and the upper and middle classes more often than the lower. So, an appeal to "soccer moms" was supposed to help win elections.

Unfortunately, in trying to decrease the popularity of certain politicians in the eyes of these women, opposing party candidates painted an uglier picture of "soccer moms".

Although I did shuttle my kids to soccer, I was not a soccer mom any more than my husband was a soccer dad. They played other sports in season, and I never felt harried, though we did indeed have the minivan.

In 1967 there were 100,000 people playing soccer in the US; by 1984, that number had grown to over 4 million. Girls high school soccer experienced tremendous growth in playing numbers throughout the 1970s and 1980s—from 10,000 in 1976, to 41,000 in 1980, to 122,000 in 1990.

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+1 but I think Mari-Lou's point should not be understated: soccer being the "new" sport has made it the "progressive" sport, one without the cultural baggage of baseball, football, or basketball. The positions are less specialized and less dependent on physical size, making wider participation possible. The sort of mom who enrolls her kids in soccer is the sort of mom who buys organic produce, watches Wes Anderson films, and still has an Obama bumper sticker. Lacrosse and ice hockey attract a somewhat different crowd. –  choster Jun 26 at 16:13
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+1 for the class and political connotations of the term. –  michelle Jun 26 at 19:23
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This may have been part of the accidental uglier picture of "soccer mom", but I've also always understood such moms to live a sheltered life and/or raise their kids in such a way –  Izkata Jun 26 at 23:23
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We're all ignoring the critical detail: did you shuttle them in a minivan and did it have faux wood paneling? ;-) –  Andrew Heath Jun 29 at 14:01

In Europe and pretty much the rest of the world, the game is called football. In the US there's already the national sport, football, which the rest of the world calls "American football" hence the term, soccer, was adopted in the US.

The US national sport is (American) football
(see edit correction below)

American football as a whole is the most popular sport in the United States; professional football and college football are the most popular forms of the game, with the other major levels being high school and youth football.

But as we all know, it's a tough rough game. You need to be physically strong, heavy, and fast on your feet. It helps if you are over 1.90 m too. It's a game of strength, coordination, speed and brutal force; so it's fair to say that traditionally it is a man's game. It's one of the first sports that American dads would teach their sons, a sport where father and son(s) could bond.

As a result, moms and daughters could feel excluded, and if a son (for whatever reason) disliked or was terrible at football he could always turn to baseball or basketball. When soccer finally caught on in the US, it was initially played by girls. As testified by this article in the New York Times dated 1996.

A soccer mom who is proud to be one

By DONNA GREENE Published: December 1, 1996

WHEN Deborah Slaner Larkin of Pelham, an advocate of sports for girls, hears ''soccer mom,'' she cringes. The term, she says, does not do justice to those who are making a difference in their daughters' lives.

A member of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and the mother of a 5-year-old, Ms. Larkin feels strongly about the benefits of sports. She is on the board of the Westchester Fund for Women and Girls [...]

We also are the people who are on the field. Most of us are not coaches, although some are. I coach my daughter's soccer team. Other moms are there in force watching. They see the condition of the fields, they see how the coaches coach, how the other parents react. They see how often their kids get to play. So they know a lot of what is really going on.

Finally there was a team sport which involved speed, necessitated excellent coordination skills, nifty footwork, and you didn't need to be built like a brick wall. In fact some of the best international football (soccer) players in the world are under 1.80m, and if you recall Maradona, arguably the most charismatic and talented player since Pelè, is only 1.65 m tall.

While soccer grew in popularity also as a boy's sport, I believe the term, soccer mom became established. She could chaperone her children, sons and daughters, to games and training practice. She no longer needed to rely on her husband to teach their son to play a manly sport, she could kick a ball just as easily and score a goal, besides her husband probably knew next to nothing about soccer unless he had watched South American TV sports channels.

What is interesting is how the term, soccer mom, has, in such a short space of time evolved from being one of praise, to its present day derogatory meaning.

From Urban Dictionary, its most impartial definition (edited on my part)

Soccer mom
A middle-aged, upper middle-class woman (usually white) and lives in the suburbs who devotes her life to her children. She carpools, drives them to soccer and little league; volunteers at their school, does snack days, and play dates. Most of them end up driving their children away by not letting them express their selves and immediately putting down anything that they find important. They are usually Christian and this can be shown around their house, in most of the cases I have found the children end up being atheists. They [soccer moms]drive in their mini vans and suburbans with their fancy coffees and cell phones.

That mom that is driving like a maniac to pick up her kid from school and cart them to soccer practice is a soccer mom.

EDIT

For the downvoter. Why is the term called Soccer mom and NOT Basketball mom, Baseball mom or Hockey mom? Because soccer is a relatively new sport in the US, although its roots were formed as long ago as 1860, it saw a dramatic decline in popularity in the 1920s. Americans had to wait until the 60s before it began to regain support. American soccer girls teams in the US have existed since the mid 70s but only began flourishing in the 1990s especially when it was decided that the US would host the Fifa World cup in 1994. As I mentioned previously, initially, soccer was embraced by American girls as a competitive team sport, American men and boys still tended to view soccer as being a sports for wimps, extolling the virtues of (American) Football as the sport par excellence.

Wikipedia states:

Soccer in the United States
In 1967 there were 100,000 people playing soccer in the US; by 1984, that number had grown to over 4 million. Girls high school soccer experienced tremendous growth in playing numbers throughout the 1970s and 1980s—from 10,000 in 1976, to 41,000 in 1980, to 122,000 in 1990.

The 1970s and 1980s saw increased popularity of the college game. Women's college soccer received a significant boost in 1972 with the passage of Title IX, which mandated equal funding for women's athletic programs, leading to colleges forming NCAA sanctioned women's varsity teams. [...] The growth of the women's game during the 1990s helped increase overall interest in soccer in the United States. The number of women's college soccer teams increased from 318 in 1991 to 959 in 2009

Finally, the statistics in the Wikipedia article suggests that soccer's unstoppable rise in popularity is no longer confined among the middle-class youth, but has cut across gender, ethnic, income and class barriers.

The largest category of soccer in the United States in terms of participation is boys' and girls' youth soccer. Soccer is one of the most played sports by children in the United States. In 2012, soccer was the #4 most played team sport by high school boys, and soccer overtook softball to become the #3 most played team sport by high school girls. As of 2006, the U.S. was the #1 country in the world for participation in youth soccer, with 3.9 million American youths (2.3 million boys and 1.6 million girls) registered with U.S. Soccer. The number of high school soccer players more than doubled from 1990 to 2010, giving soccer the fastest growth rate among all major U.S. sports


EDIT 2

Until yesterday I was unaware that (American) football is not considered to be the national sport. Despite it being on the whole the most popular sport in the United States [and] "As of 2012, nearly 1.1 million high school athletes and 70,000 college athletes play the sport in the United States annually" That special honour is reserved for baseball.

But not all Americans would agree as the executive editor of Slate, Josh Levin, boldly claims, "If the United States had an official sport, what would it be? Baseball can call itself the national pastime until the sun burns out, but the correct answer is good old American football."

If you're into sports, I recommend clicking on the article, it has a fun map of the different official state sports in the USA including a few surprises too!

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gosh, I don't understand the down vote. Perhaps someone would care to explain it? The only problem I have with your answer (which I think is the best one here) is that the semi-official All-American Sport is baseball. Football is very popular as well, though. (+1) –  medica Jun 26 at 7:06
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"Soccer" was a fairly common usage when I played it at school in the 1970's in the NW of England. I doubt very much if you had polled people in my region anyone would have thought the word was tainted with Americanism. –  Francis Davey Jun 26 at 10:06
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I mean this in the best way possible: Urban dictionary is crap. Most of that entry is tendentious. "Usually Christian"? There is no information in that. –  Mitch Jun 26 at 15:59
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Also, I think it misses the main point of "soccer mom"-hood. Unlike in many countries, where soccer is the primary sporting activity of the poor/underclass, in the U.S., the whole 'soccer mom' concept of soccer being a popular sport is that it is mainly played by middle class children whose parents think of it as a kind of enrichment activity to be mixed in with piano lessons and the like. Generally speaking it is expected that top athlete boys will give up the sport for another such as football by the time they reach high school. –  nohat Jun 26 at 16:29
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@Mari-LouA sorry I was unclear. I meant that in the U.S., (and this is changing, but), the mainstream place of soccer is as a distinctively middle- and upper-middle-class enrichment activity for children, not a serious major sport. The idea of "soccer mom" plays directly into that idea that it's about status and focusing on family and children, rather than it being about the sport itself. I think being a class marker is the core of the term "soccer mom" –  nohat Jun 26 at 17:32

Soccer Mum (in UK, Australia and NZ) originated as a mildly derogatory term for mothers who spend much of their time driving to and from home and soccer (or other sporting activities), often in large four drive/SUV cars which never see dirt roads. (Source wiki.answers.com)

The Origin of the Term "Soccer Mom"

The earliest record of the term “soccer mom” being used to describe the woman mentioned above is in 1995. Susan Casey was running for the Denver City Council and decided to use the slogan “A Soccer Mom for City Council”. Casey’s platform was built around the idea that women were capable of having a profession and raising a family.

Apparently the idea was a popular one in Denver. Casey won her election with 51% of the vote.

National Politics and Soccer Moms

The following year the term soccer mom made its way into national politics, but the Republican party didn’t define it quite the same. Bob Dole was squaring off against Bill Clinton in the 1996 presidential race, and at the Republican National Convention Dole’s media advisor Alex Castellanos dropped the soccer mom bomb into the national media’s lap.

Castellanos suggested that Clinton’s team was using soccer mom demographics to win the election. His description of a soccer mom was somewhat different than Casey’s. Castellanos defined a soccer mom as an “overburdened middle income working mother who transports their children to soccer practice, to scouts and school”. Regardless of the meaning, the term “soccer mom” was a hit with the media, which began using it in print and on television.

Since that election soccer moms have become a definitive segment all their own, that are as prevalent in politics as they are in pop culture. Though it’s been used as the punch line of jokes and an angle for marketers, soccer moms now proudly bear the label like a badge of honor. Here at Avila Creative Soccer we salute you soccer moms.

Source

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This doesn't answer the question of why soccer was chosen instead of another sport. Did Susan Casey have some reason to choose it over others? –  congusbongus Jun 26 at 4:58
    
@congusbongus Well I guess a portion of Europe, America and other continents are into Soccer. Another reason could be that "kids" particularly at small age like soccer more (at least I have noticed that). All they need is a ball unlike baseball and basketball where a bat or court is required. More answers are welcome here. –  Arrowfar Jun 26 at 5:17
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We don't use the term 'soccer mum' in the UK unless we're intentionally referencing the American phenomenon, in which case we'd spell it 'soccer mom'. –  rjh Jun 26 at 14:07
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@congusbongus: Presumably it's because soccer was the sport that her children played the most. As unpopular as it is in the US media, it is extremely popular among American children. As a middle-class suburban youth, it was certainly the most popular sport among my peers. –  Gabe Jun 26 at 19:41

As other answerers have noted, “soccer mom” emerged as a demographic term because of politics. It referred to a particular type of voter: a female parent engaged in her child’s or children’s extracurricular activities, usually married or divorced, usually suburban, and usually middle class or upper middle class.

But why were these demographic features associated with soccer instead of some other sport—or with no sport at all? And why did politicians care about this particular demographic anyway?

Why Soccer?

In the early 1990s, soccer was still a fairly new organized youth sport in much of the United States. There were certainly leagues—even professional ones—stretching back to the early 1970s, but the primary youth and high-school sports at that time were baseball, football, basketball, swimming, track, and (in the north) hockey for boys; and basketball, volleyball, swimming, and track for girls.

The established sports drew the best athletes, in part because they offered a future in athletic competition in middle school and beyond. But the intense competitiveness of Little League baseball and Mighty Mite or Pop Warner football—with their unrelenting pressure to win, to play through injuries, and to endure aggressive coaching and heckling from bad-behaving adults—repelled some parents.

To people in the rest of the world, where soccer is the drama king of sports, it may seem astonishing that the impetus for grown-ups in the United States to organize youth soccer leagues and to enroll their kids in them was in large part a reaction against the win-at-all-costs mentality of the established youth sports. Even in the late 1980s, when I enrolled my kids in youth soccer programs in northern California, the league placed considerable emphasis on the “friendliness” of the games: Spectators were not supposed to criticize their team, the opposition, or the referees; everyone who showed up was supposed to play a roughly equal number of minutes; and winning was supposed to be less important than trying hard and having a good time.

Thus, in 1995 a “soccer mom” had not merely chosen to be deeply involved in her children’s athletic endeavors as a fan and chaperone; she had also made a conscious choice to put them in a newish alternative sport that she had probably not played herself as a child and that rejected the perceived ethos of the traditional sports.

Accurately or not, political strategists attributed these characteristics to women in the “soccer mom” category: active, devoted to parenting, affluent, protective, optimistic, open-minded (in the sense of being willing to try new things), and likely to vote. Though race was not an explicit part of the standard description, I suspect that “more likely than not, white” was an implicit element of the demographic description as well. But economic class was far more relevant to the category than ethnicity.

The connection to a sport (as opposed to no sport) is significant, I think, because sports in the United States are viewed as being a down-to-earth, all-American activity for kids. A “piano mom” might have most of the same aspirations for and involvement with her children as a “soccer mom”—and in fact many real-world soccer moms are also piano moms—but U.S. society at large might suspect a piano mom of effeteness, or at least of harboring dubious priorities; and it's important to remember that politicians were actively courting "soccer moms" in the 1990s, so it wouldn't do to portray them as having even remotely suspect credentials.

When I was a child, the notion of “PTA parents”— parents who cared so much about their children’s success in life that they attended interminable monthly Parent–Teacher Association meetings held in their children’s elementary school lunchroom/auditorium—was a popular label. The labels change, but the habit of trying to pigeonhole blocs of likely voters persists.

Why Did This Demographic Receive So Much Attention?

The simple answer to this question is that political strategists viewed “soccer moms” as being a swing-vote demographic. A classic expression of this view appears in an interview with Tipper Gore (wife of then–Vice President Al Gore) published in the February 1997 issue of Mother Jones magazine:

Q: I understand that you are a real “soccer mom.” During the last [1996] campaign, we heard a lot about soccer moms—swing voters who voted for Carter [in 1976], Reagan [in 1980 and 1984], and Clinton [in 1992 and 1996]. But that’s a slightly different group, because you wouldn’t have voted for Reagan.

A: Thank you.... It is me to a certain extent. Not that I have voted anything but Democratic—I haven’t. But now that you have explained that, I can go back to wearing my soccer mom button.

Labels like “soccer mom” and “Joe Sixpack” are self-perpetuating, and never have more than a very crude relation to the complexities of real people. But they catch on because they simplify reality and have a superficial appearance of insight. Ultimately, “soccer mom” no more defines a monolithic demographic of striving, suburban, hands-on parents than “Volvo-driving brie-and-chablis crowd” accurately pins down a monolithic demographic of affluent liberal poseurs.

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I suggest that the reason "Soccer Mom" came about was because Soccer in the US is often played by not only the middle class, but also the sport of kids that aren't really physically gifted, but rather whose parents think they should 'do some sport' just like they should check off boxes on their college application ten years down the line. It's the choice of the heavily involved parent, usually a mom, who wants their kids to do a little bit of everything and as such drives the kid around, rather than letting their kid fend for him/herself. Some of it is the less physical nature, I'm sure, and some of it is the fact that girls can play it, but the biggest factor is its accessibility and low time commitment.

If you have a kid that you think is going to 'be something', you play basketball, or baseball, or football. However, soccer fields are full of kids whose parents think they should be there, and since soccer is fun enough AND simple enough that you can play it even if you're not very good at it, many of the kids don't mind. Baseball is actually very hard to play if you're bad at it (you just strike out a lot) and has a lot of 'failure' points. Basketball requires height and is dominated by one or two players typically, and again has lots of 'failures' for kids (missed shots). American football is physically difficult.

Soccer, however, is eleven kids running around for three hours and maybe has a few dozen shots in total taken by a few of the better kids - but all eleven kids get to touch the ball, all eleven might contribute to a goal, even if they're not very good. It's the ultimate sport for moms who want to make their kids feel good about themselves - and I don't say this derogatively, I say this as a once-upon-a-time kid not at all good at sports who did feel better playing soccer. You don't have to practice very often (individually) to be able to play it. You don't have to be tall or fast. You can run around on that soccer field and occasionally kick the ball and feel good about yourself. (I'm not saying soccer is easy to play well - but that playing soccer not-well is much more fulfilling than playing baseball not-well or basketball not-well. It's less frustrating when your pass goes a bit awry - in part because sometimes that's not even a bad thing, and in part because nobody's keeping score (at that level) of passes.)

Soccer moms, then, are the moms who get their kids involved in everything, whose kids probably don't have time to do any one thing very well but are expected to be high achievers in everything. Soccer moms as a political group are the ones who want low crime rates, good schools, nicely cleaned up lawns around them; they want the best of everything for their kids, basically, as most moms do, and the particular way they get that is by having a full time job of taking them to every opportunity they can think of. They are the over-involved, over-scheduled moms, and they do to some extent act as a political class - and they're certainly taking their kids to soccer, specifically. I'm sure part of that is due to the World Cup in 1994 making soccer "popular" for a while, but to a large extent it's simply the nature of soccer (easy to do, not failure-prone, doesn't require a lot of commitment) that leads to these sorts of moms preferring it to other sports.

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I hesitate to upvote this. The first paragraph seems to describe the stereotype accurately, which would explain the phrase, but do you mean to suggest that football is objectively something for people that “aren't really physically gifted” that requires a “low time commitment”? The rest of the world might disagree… –  Gala Jun 26 at 17:07
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I don't know about baseball (never seen a game in my life) but I played basketball (in Europe) and it does not seem inherently more difficult. I would miss the basket a lot of course but I still scored occasionally, the only frustrating thing was the fact that physical contact seemed basically forbidden. By contrast, I did not feel particularly good playing football (and you can easily miss shots or passes, which does not make your teammates happy). I think it has much more to do with the social context (how competitive clubs are, how the sport is considered, etc.) than with the sport itself. –  Gala Jun 26 at 17:53
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Most importantly, this stereotype is so typically American that it does not make sense to look at the rules of the game for an explanation. Football is simply not seen in that way elsewhere. Good answers therefore focus on the stereotype and describe it as such instead of dwelling on irrelevant details of the game. –  Gala Jun 26 at 17:54
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Certainly it matters how a game is considered socially, but I think that soccer(/football) is unequivocally easier to perform competently at (or at least not play as badly). I'm talking about kids like myself as a child - who were physically incapable of making baskets. I played a season of basketball and two seasons of soccer, and the latter was much more enjoyable because I couldn't make a basket or participate meaningfully - but I could hit the goal in soccer (even if I never did in a game since I played as a more defensive midfielder). –  Joe Jun 26 at 17:57
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I think that's an important reason why soccer became the sport people put their kids in. There are lots of less competitive sport options - but soccer stands out in that it is easy to play, cheap to play, and easy to feel like you're doing well even if you're horrid at it. –  Joe Jun 26 at 17:58

Soccer involves less physical contact than (most?) other football codes, and tends to have a less macho, more family-friendly reputation in countries dominated by other codes. Mothers uncomfortable with their children getting a few knocks might prefer them to play soccer rather than another code. It's also seen as a more multi-culturally friendly sport. So a mother putting her children into soccer can be suggestive of a certain socioeconomic/cultural/political outlook.

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Which, socially, is the very opposite of what it is everywhere else in the world. in South America it is kids from the slums who end up playing in the great stadiums. –  WS2 Jun 26 at 7:41

I think it was specifically soccer because while American Football is perceived as a very blue-collar sport and basketball African-American, soccer was (is) seen as a more fashionable european and more middle-class sport.

Ironic really since Soccer is now becoming more popular in schools because it needs less expensive equipment than American football or Hockey, and it is still most popular in poorer latino communities.

So Soccer-mon originally had a more derogatory meaning of someone who drove their children in an SUV to organised activities rather than just letting them play sport. Now it seems to mean any women with career+children and a busy life.

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Ironic indeed. One of the reasons that American school systems prefer to field soccer [ROW: football] teams is that not only is equipment much cheaper than for [American rules] football, but insurance costs are much lower. There are many fewer serious injuries, particularly to the head. However, studies have shown that every time a player head[er]s the ball, they suffer a minor concussion that can add up to serious damage over many such hits. –  Phil Perry Jun 26 at 14:18

When I was growing up as a youth (1970s, northeastern U.S.) many of the youth in my community played youth baseball. There was some hockey (however, the equipment is expensive, and it's hard to get decent ice time). Football was big in the midwest (not so much where I grew up), but also has the problem of a lot of equipment needed, and it's much less co-ed.

There are many answers here, but none of them seem to touch I what I think contributed most to the meteoric rise of youth soccer (football).

Let me just say this, as one who played these sports, and (as a parent) watched my kids play them: There are some huge advantages to soccer as a youth sport.

Ever watch ten-year-olds play baseball? At any one time, there are usually only three people doing anything: the pitcher, the catcher, and the batter. Everyone else is either sitting in the dugout, or waiting for a ball to be hit into play.

On the soccer field, though, everyone can be in the game. Teams are big, equipments costs are small, and most everyone is moving around for most of the game. It makes a great youth sport.

Watching my kid play on a soccer team was fun; watching my kid play on a baseball team was almost painful sometimes. ("Ball four! Take your base" ad nauseum.)

Anyhow, the sport caught on like wildfire, and happened to be a preeminent youth sport at the time when phrases like hockey mom, football mom, and baseball mom were entering into the vernacular.

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Exactly the same problems apply to cricket as you describe for baseball. And rugby has many of the disadvantages of American football - from broken necks to a game with too many stoppages, which does not 'flow'. Football did not become the world's most popular spectator sport (by hundreds of miles) by being boring. The rarity of goals is precisely what makes it compelling. –  WS2 Jun 26 at 22:45
    
If your argument is true, and I agree that football is a team sport where girls can play with boys and everyone can go mad running for the ball, or, instead, adopt positions on the pitch and "protect" that area or mark one or two opponents from the start of the match. Your point being that kids are active for 90 minutes, there is no dead time. Then why was soccer ignored between the 1930s and early 60s in the US? In fact, why did it fall out of favour in the first place? Soccer is relatively new in the US but it's been Europe's (and South America) most popular sport for several decades. –  Mari-Lou A Jun 27 at 0:11
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@Mari-Lou - My high school had a soccer team, and my kids played in a recreational league until high school. The emphasis here seems to be on 7-12 year olds, because that's the demographic of the soccer mom, which is what this question is about. Sure, soccer is played by older teens, but the numbers drop off (largely due to teens getting jobs or getting drawn to other activities that may not have been available when they were younger). Plus, as you say, older teens are less likely to need carting around, so a mom may not feel like a "soccer mom" any longer, even if her son is still playing. –  J.R. Jun 27 at 8:39
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How would you explain the years of wilderness, i.e. when soccer was seemingly forgotten and abandoned in the States? –  Mari-Lou A Jun 27 at 8:42
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I disagree that the question is about the demographics. The OP asked: "What puzzles me is the choice of sport in the term: why soccer?" And his assumption "there are many sports more popular than it in USA" Not really, if soccer is already the 3rd most popular team sport for girls. The fact that girls enjoyed playing it, and women soccer league matches attract large crowds has always struck me as being exceptional. –  Mari-Lou A Jun 27 at 9:10

Others have covered big picture issues like class, gender, physical requirements, and timing. I’m sure they all played a roll (especially gender) in its origins, but I think in the end what ended up propagating the term is the way it rolls off the tongue. It’s catchy. Compare that to baseball mom, football mom, or basketball mom. People love a catchy slogan.

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there are many sports more popular than it in USA

That's not true. The only sport more popular for youth is Basketball.

Soccer is the #2 youth sport in terms of participation in America.

So in terms of ubiquitousness, Soccer is certainly a valid sport to choose to make a point that may appeal to a wide demographic of people.

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+1 I was considering posting a similar answer. Also, I would bet the demographics of youth soccer make actual soccer moms more likely to be in the middle class / suburban demographic. "Basketball moms" would refer to a much less specific group, including poor urban moms for example. –  Muhd Jun 28 at 0:14

In the US, soccer is played by both boys and girls.

Other aspects of its universal appeal for American kids is that it requires little by way of equipment (for example, there is no need for the kind of monstrous and expensive padding and protective headgear that is worn by players of (American) football), the rules are relatively straightforward, there are none of the tedious time-outs that occur in American football, and it is often played in inter-school tournaments.

The last-mentioned factor frequently means that the players have to be taken to game venues by a parent/supporter, a fact that must have represented a convenient hook to attach the 'soccer mom' label to.

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Sounds reasonable, but I'd love to see some evidence back these ideas up. Is soccer a much more popular sport for American kids for these reasons? Is it overrepresented for girls' sports? Are inter-school tournaments less frequent for the other sports? –  congusbongus Jun 26 at 5:48

"Soccer Moms" refer to the mothers of a particular generation of children.

Soccer became popular in the mid-1990s for the so-called Millennial generation of children, who were born starting in the early 1980s, and started to going to middle school around 1995. The term "soccer mom" refers to "working" mothers, who had their children play soccer after school, giving them more of a time "window" between the time they returned from work to cook dinner.

Unlike baseball, football or basketball, that was played only by the most "talented" children (dextrous for baseball, heaviest for football, tallest for basketball), soccer was played by most children in the 1990s and 2000s, including girls, and became something of a "least common denominator" in sports for children.

So "soccer mom" has that 1990s connotation, where moms took interest en masse in the sport their children played for the first time. That was not (generally) true for the moms of baseball, football, or basketball players.

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The US has higher participation rates for youth soccer than any other country. It is the second or third most popular youth sport, behind basketball (and close to baseball). So it is not the case that it would be a poor choice for popularity.

Basketball is well ahead of soccer in youth sport popularity, so this raises the question, "why not basketball?". My guess is that stereotypical "soccer moms" make up a more specific and better defined demographic: they are typically middle-class, suburban moms active in their kids' lives. Basketball moms are a much more diverse demographic, including, for example, poor urban moms.

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This is an attempt to study and generalise consumer behaviour.

Women may be single or married, may or may not have kids, may or may not work, and so on. Women who are mothers may have different parenting styles. Marketing to women needs to pitch the message in a way that resonates with them. And for that they need to know the psychology.

The parenting style of moms gives the best clue to their psychology. There are the stay-at-home moms, or the homemakers. There are the women who leave kids with sitters and go out to socialise. Then there are the women who take an active interest in their kids school and extra-curricular activities. Probably at the time this demographic was identified, the most visible aspect of a 'hands on' mom was taking the kids to soccer practice. So in true American style someone said 'soccer mom' and it stuck because it was an observation of other people also and everyone knew what they were talking about.

The soccer mom may never take their kids to soccer practice ever and would still be a soccer mom. A mom who shuttles their children to and from school, takes them ballet or music or karate, to visit science museums or movies or parks, or to the mall, would still be a soccer mom.

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I think I understand what you're saying, but it would be helpful if you lead with your answer to the question and put your justification after it. –  Matt Эллен Jun 27 at 9:15

This question is too simple for these hard answers. I do hear "LAX mom", "football mom", "baseball mom" and so on. These are all common phrases.

The fact that "soccer mom" is the most common phrase is because for young kids it is the most common sport played in the US by far and the most common sport in the world (obviously). So if someone wants to hit a bigger demographic they would say "soccer mom".

There isn't anything fancy to it. Soccer doesn't hold any more cachet than any other sport. There are more kids playing it. If they are on a club team it is the sport that involves the most travel at the youngest age (I have been sadly involved with a travel team for 6 year old kids). There is nothing else to this. Just more kids play soccer, might have a little more driving involved.

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And was that true twenty years ago? Was baseball already being dropped in favour of soccer? Wasn't soccer initially thought to be for wussies? As a sport soccer is less aggressive than football, less well-paid than basketball, and less nostalgic than baseball. So what's the attraction? Why is it the most common sport played by under 13 year-olds (if it's true)? The "hard answers" are trying to explain that. –  Mari-Lou A Jun 27 at 16:23
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@Mari-LouA - It is has been the most common sport played by under 13s since at least the 60s. Kids start at 3-4 years old here. Basically it is easier to play, costs less, and there are more fields available than any other sport. Baseball is #2 for kids but involves a lot of rules and the kids do have to catch a hard ball. Also soccer is easier to play inside so it gets played in metro areas. Basically if you are a sports fanatic for any sport, you want to start your kid off in soccer to get coordination and running down. It is the gateway sport here. –  RyeɃreḁd Jun 27 at 16:35
    
-1 Basketball is actually far more popular by far for youth sports. –  Muhd Jun 28 at 0:17
    
@Muhd - that is just the organized players. –  RyeɃreḁd Jun 28 at 0:21
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@RyeɃreḁd True, however I would guess basketball is more popular for pickup games as well. Street/pickup basketball is immensely popular especially in urban environments, where basketball courts are more common than suitable soccer fields. Also, my impression is that the "soccer" in "soccer mom" refers primary to organized soccer -- the sort that requires moms to shuttle kids to and from games, which is less common in unorganized games. –  Muhd Jun 28 at 0:31

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