I wanted to follow up on my soccer post from last week, in which I examined resistance to soccer by conservative opinion makers. Drew Conway had a nice post showing basically no relationship between a country's freedoms and the success of its soccer team. This inspired me to look into the relationship between wealth and soccer success. The graph below charts out each country's per capita GDP (logged) on the horizontal axis and its FIFA ranking on the vertical axis (1 is best, 202 is worst).
So, contra Glenn Beck's rejection of soccer, conservatives should clearly love this sport, since you can buy success. It's all about social mobility. USA! USA!
Comments welcome, although please keep in mind that I know very little about soccer, sports in general, or countries not called the United States of America.
Update: The inflection point in the trend above is largely caused by wealthy, relatively non-populous countries with unimpressive soccer teams. Addition national population to the regression makes a big difference, straightening out the trend and raising the R-squared from .06 to .46. Controlling for population increases the estimated impact of GDP. Now it appears that a country should improve about one FIFA ranking place for every additional $1,000 in per capita GDP. Here's a partial regression plot of GDP predicting FIFA rank, controlling for population: