For the first time in 30 years, the National
Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) reported that participation in high school sports declined.
NFHS: 2018-19 High School participation survey
The total number of participants in 2018-19 was 7,937,491, a decline of 43,395 from the 2017-18 school year.
Both boys and girls soccer, however, reported increases of 2,715 and 3,623 participants, respectively. On the boys side, soccer is the fifth biggest sport with 459,077 participants, and soccer is fourth among girls with 394,105 participants.
On both the boys and girls side, only about the two-thirds of schools that sponsor basketball -- the most popular sport in terms of schools offering it -- have soccer programs, so there is a lot of room for growth.
These increases contrast with reports of declining participation numbers at the club level and suggest high school soccer is an attractive option for those interested in the sport at the high school level because of its accessibility (mostly on-site facilities) and cost (free or cheaper than club soccer).
The two sports that lost the most number of participants were 11-player football and basketball.
With 1,006,013 participants, 11-player football still is the most popular, but it came in with its lowest mark since the 1999-2000 school year. The driving factor in the decline, for now, is the smaller average number of players per program, not fewer programs.
Basketball participation was down among both boys (10,604) and girls (23,944).
Boys Participation (2018-19):
1. Football (11-player), 1,006,013.
2. Outdoor track & field, 605,354.
3. Basketball, 540,769.
4. Baseball, 482,740.
5. Soccer, 459,077
Girls Participation (2018-19):
1. Outdoor track & field, 488,267.
2. Volleyball, 452,808.
3. Basketball, 399,067.
4. Soccer, 394,105.
5. Fast-pitch softball, 362,038.