Peyton Mannings Says Soccer, Football Can Co-Exist in U.S.

Peyton Manning is a football guy through and through. There’s no doubting Manning’s love for the game he played his entire life until retiring from the NFL in 2016 as a two-time Super Bowl champion, five-time MVP and with his name written throughout the league’s record book.

A staunch defender of American football, Manning represents “soccer” against David Beckham and “football” in a new spot for Frito-Lay which continues the age-old debate over the name of the world’s most popular sport ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup beginning November 20 in Qatar.

“The World Cup brings people together to watch sports just like the Super Bowl,” Manning says. “That’s what the World Cup is about and I know a lot of people will be tuned in to watch.”

More than half of the world’s population aged 4 and over—3.572 billion people—watched the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia while an estimated two-thirds of the United States’ population—208 million—watched Super Bowl LVI last year. 

Despite the latest installment of the quadrennial tournament taking place in the winter due to unplayable heat during the summer months in the Middle East, World Cup organizers announced more than 2.9 million tickets sold—matching the entire population of host nation Qatar. The American Gaming Association forecasts 20.5 million Americans plan to bet $1.8 billion on the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Whether identifying as “team soccer” or “team football,” the sport’s growth in the United States can’t be overlooked, especially ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup coming to the continent. 

Not only have MLS and NWSL grown in terms of number of clubs and valuation/expansion fees, both leagues posted record-breaking attendance figures and viewership growth in 2022, while athlete-investors including Kevin Durant (Philadelphia Union/Gotham FC), Eli Manning (Gotham FC), Candace Parker (Angel City FC), Magic Johnson (LAFC) and Derrick Henry (Nashville SC) are all backing domestic-based clubs.

“Obviously I’ve always been biased towards football being a great game and all the relationships and friendships it’s brought me, but I understand David feels the same way about soccer,” says Peyton Manning, a 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee. “I think there’s room for both. Obviously David owns a soccer team (Inter Miami CF) and other people are getting involved. It’s very popular here in Colorado where I live. I think there’s certainly room for all.”

Manning’s love for football continues to serve as the impetus for everything he does since hanging it up after 18 years in the NFL. 

The former Colts and Broncos quarterback remains around the game whether it’s through hosting Peyton’s Places on ESPN or co-hosting the Manning Cast with brother Eli. The elder Manning also hosts quiz show College Bowl with brother Cooper, recently hosted the Country Music Awards with friend Luke Bryan, and has been featured in ads for Frito-Lay, Caesars Sportsbook and BBQGuys.

“I’m trying to do things I at least have some sort of connection to,” Manning says. “I’m not trying to get too far out of the box where I have no idea what I’m doing. I feel I’m doing a lot of these things kind of on my schedule where being at my kids’ volleyball games and youth football games is kind of top priority. The fact that I’m able to do that means a lot to me.

While Manning has been the face of so many shows and commercials since taking his helmet off for good, he’s also learning and working behind the scenes through his Omaha Productions.

The company, named after Manning’s infamous audible call during his playing days, is behind all of the aforementioned shows on top of the Places franchise, which also includes shows with Abby Wambach (soccer), David Ortiz (baseball), Eli Manning (college football), Vince Carter (basketball), Sue Bird (college basketball), P.K. Subban (hockey) and Ronda Rousey (combat sports) where each host explores the history of their respective sport through conversations with former players, coaches and key figures.

Manning said the docuseries franchise in partnership with ESPN plans to expand outside of sports with Luke Bryan (country music), LL Cool J (hip-hop) and Admiral William H. McRaven (military) set to join the Places family.

“It’s been fun to be on the other side of things with Omaha,” Manning says. “Prior to that I was just simply there fulfilling my role but now I’m part of things where I’m not the main part of it.

“… I’ve never been able to be a part of anything like that where Omaha can help give someone else a platform. That’s probably been the most enjoyable part of it for me. We’ve partnered with different people trying to tell positive stories and I’ve really enjoyed being a part of that team.”

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney

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