U.S. Soccer fans, a somewhat underrepresented group since football, baseball, and basketball are generally seen as the top three sports Americans are known for abroad, were ecstatic this year with the hope that the United States might possibly earn a victory at this years World Cup.
Sadly, it did not come to pass, and perhaps it was the news articles, touting Americans new-found interest in the sport that fanned the flames of those long-time fans’ hopes.
Soccer has not been an American favorite, though this does not mean that the sport does not have its audience, which seems to be increasing.
U.S. increase in soccer on average spikes seasonally by a small amount, though this year part is owed to a general increase in interest among Americans for the game, due to events like the United States World Cup appearance, the introduction of New York City’s first professional soccer team, and the increased enthusiasm of soccer fans from foreign countries who bring their love of soccer to their new home.
With quotes like, “In some U.S. cities and towns, public squares brimmed and bars were crammed with fans sporting the national team colors and singing the national anthem collectively,” from SF Gate, a U.S. based publication, one wonders whether the United States loss is as bad a thing for American soccer fans as one would assume.
Americans were still tuning in to watch it all play out, even after the United States had lost with ESPN reporting the Brazil and Germany game was the highest rated and most watched FIFA World Cup semifinal match on U.S. television with about 6.6 million views on ESPN.
Though this interest is not something that is owed entirely to the United States participation in the World Cup games. With this year also comes increased and organized support for New York City’s first professional soccer team in the form of a fan club.
“It’s far too simplistic for us to look at tonight, a sellout crowd, and say this is because of the World Cup,” said the president of the Los Angeles Major League Soccer (MLS) team Galaxy, Chris Klein, in an article by the Los Angeles Times. “Have our season-ticket sales spiked? Not yet.”
“What it really shows is how large the audience is for the sport in the United States,” said Mark Abbott, president of the MLS as well as its deputy commissioner, in the article by the L.A. times previously mentioned.
The New York City Football Club was announced as the twentieth franchise in Major League Soccer on May 21, 2013. An announcement met with support from local New Yorkers who, in the past, had not been able to connect with the New York Red Bulls, a New York team not based in the city.
These New York City fans have gathered together, calling themselves “The Third Rail.” A name that for New Yorkers is instantly recognizable as the electrified rail running through New York City subway tracks.
Though, the team won’t be playing any games until 2015, this group has been supporting them. The group has been running a blog, updating it with news about the team’s status and the World Cup since May.
The team will be playing their first season home game at Yankee Stadium, but it is not a permanent fixture for the team as they have plans to move to a different stadium later. These plans have been rife with indecision as the team was originally supposed to base their team out of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. This fell through when residents and the Mets protested against the intrusion. The current plan is to build a stadium next to Yankee Stadium, where the team will play while plans are up in the air.
Some Africans also feel pride in the U.S. and NYC teams, foregoing the stereotype of cheering home for a new kind of team pride.
Abou Ciffe, 15, Bronx, who said he was the only one of his friends cheering for the U.S.A. this World Cup. His reason was due to how they eliminated some of the African teams early on in the games.
“They showed they could’ve made it [this year]…because they took out all the African teams,” said Ciffe.
Ciffe also noted the U.S. is doing good this year by simply making it to the World Cup, commenting on a string of eliminations that plagued the team before. He is excited to for the MLS New York City based team, saying that although he does not watch MLS games as frequently as he does the World Cup, but he hopes the New York City teams drafts more American players.
“In order to represent New York, you need people from New York.”
Soccer as a sport has been popular all around the world, and with the United States growing immigrant population, especially those from Latin America, with over 52.2% of people born in Latin America recorded as residing in the United States by the Migration Policy Institute, it is no wonder interest in the games is booming.