Triathlon in the USA is sold as a poor man's ironman, and ironman is hard and you should nearly die trying to finish, and it's for the tough people.
Triathlon for the fast and furious pc gaming generation isn't ironman, ironman is a sport for old white people with too much time and money. In recent years, USAT and CEO Urbach are specifically to blame for this. Urbach has spent at least the last 4-years gloating over the membership and participation numbers while showing Ironman videos with people failing, using crappy Eminem tracks as backing. No young mother wants to see her 8-year old doing Ironman, its so unsuitable. Compare that to the fast and furious ITU (Super)Sprint Relays.
USAT has many challenges now the participation and membership numbers are dropping. There a very few professional/elite races at short distance in the USA this year that offer any reasonable amount of prize money. There are no significant short course races series of any consequence. USAT itself managed to isolate itself further from it's desperate and geographically huge regions, making local, nation coordination even harder. There seems to be no effective sports development program for new comers, in fact little to capitalize on Gwen Jorgensen Olympic Gold medal and now Gwen and Patrick have announced they are expecting their first child, Gwen won't be availble to race and showcase her speed.
I wrote parts of this as responses to Dan Empfields' Slowtwitch op-ed about "undisclosed fees". With all due respect, Dan missed a bigger opportunity. Another thing that needs a complete rethink is how the USAT license is collected and distributed, rather than simple hiding a unjustifiable high online platform fee in an already expensive race entry.
The big races have become largely interchangeable, same look and feel, common branding, supporting and promoting any products they can get onboard irrespective of the relevance to the competitors.
Yes, triathlon has a high price of entry, it is too expensive. Yes races are expensive, but that's more a reflection of the business demands from key industry players rather than nickel and diming participants. Almost all the equipment needed to participate in a triathlon goes through the normal marketing, product re-invention cycle, which instead of allowing product costs to be defrayed over many years, keeps costs high but delivering little to most competitors except to dazzle with (uneccesary) technology. The race organization field is slowly consolidating all the big city races, and many of the smaller races into a fewer organizations, which makes it harder to compete for smaller and single race organizers over anything but sprint distance.
Times are changing, and if they don't, they should be.