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FBM’s Person of the Year 2014

 

By Dan Wiersema / Founder, FBM

2014 was massive year for soccer in America. Millions of newbies "believed" in a men's national team in Brazil, Men "blazed" a new trail to NBC Sports, and a "LegenD" ended his career in a winning fashion. Along the way Major League Soccer continued to grow to new heights (through attendance, ratings, and expansion bumps), the women's national team learned its path to more (hopefully) World Cup glory, and, well, Dom Dwyer and Sydney Leroux happened

So who do you get to represent all that is good in the American soccer world in 2014? What person or group represents a year where soccer surged ahead, again, to continue its meteoric rise worming its way into the American sporting landscape?

The American soccer fan. 

And who better to carry the banner for them?

Teddy in Manaus. Photo Credit: FBM

Teddy Goalsevelt.

Goalsevelt, aka Mike D'Amico of Chicago, rose to fame when his screaming Presidential mug appeared on ESPN's broadcast during the US-Portugal match. By the time the advertising agency man returned to his hotel room in Natal (and wifi) he had become the "face of American soccer". Between Manaus and Recife interviews piled up as did an invite from U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati to rally the crowd (alongside Will Ferrell) the night before the USMNT's final group match against Germany. 

Teddy and me in Recife

But what makes Teddy the Free Beer Movement's "Person of the Year" for 2014 is more than just a face; he represents the evolution of the American soccer fan. I interviewed Mr. Goalsevelt at the height of his 15 minutes of fame and what struck me was how friendly, articulate, and humble D'Amico was. He came to Brazil as just another of the 500-plus American Outlaws traveling en masse to support the national team. He wasn't the first to don a costume or even the first to represent one of our nation's Presidents; he wasn't looking for a patriotic frat party or place to be a jingoistic nationalist. 

D'Amico represents the American soccer fan at the peak of the team's and the sport's popularity this summer and that the love affair with soccer in this country isn't just a every-four-years thing. As Major League Soccer moves into its second decade and our national teams complete regularly on the global stage our fans too have evolved and garnered national and international respect. The outpouring of support for the national team this summer was larger than ever before, but not spontaneous as outsiders would like to imagine.

The foundation was being laid in the four years between our dismissal from South Africa by Ghana and Clint Dempsey's revenge inside Arena Das Dunas.

In stadiums and bars from coast to coast the American soccer fan grew in the last four years. The packed watch parties in parks and pubs were the results of supporters from all walks of life building American soccer for this summer's mainstream moment. 

A belief in this sport that everything has led to here where American soccer no longer has to answer the question "when will soccer make it in the U.S.?" to a confident statement, "soccer has made it".

Photo Credit: USA Today

The American soccer fan is no longer something for others to scoff at. They talk tactics. I'd put up our fans soccer smarts alongside any others' around the world. Their tifo game is on point. Places like Portland, Seattle, New England, Kansas City, and New York are looking more and more like Dortmund, Milan, Barcelona, and beyond. Most importantly is that the American soccer fan is more open, more gracious that their worldly counterparts. Rivals share a beer together rather than a beef. They honor each others fallen members. The only knife fights are the hilariously digital ones on Reddit/MLS' "TRASH TALK THREAD" before the weekend.

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From newbie to fan to fanatic D'Amico's journey isn't unique. Or at least it isn't that unique anymore. More and more often Teddy Goalsevelt's journey is becoming the standard for many. While Teddy stood out this summer he was surrounded by the like-minded passion of hundreds of other American Outlaws and thousands of fellow U.S. fans in Brazil and millions more back home. 

In June Goalsevelt told me, "The fact that this many people are sharing and tweeting and posting my stupid face just means all of those people were watching U.S. soccer.

Which is incredible. How big this has gotten… it couldn’t have happened if there wasn’t a critical mass of eyeballs on the match. So the fact that so many people were watching the ability to turn my dumb face with this hat, glasses, and mustache into a viral hit is fantastic.

Not for me, but for the game."

Even as the memories and the pain of Brazil 2014 fades the excitement for soccer in American has not. This year's MLS Cup saw a 91% jump on ESPN from last year, 83% increase on WatchESPN, and nearly doubles on Spanish-broadcast channels. It was the third highest MLS Cup TV ratings since the beginning of the league

And it doesn't have to stop there. What Goalsevelt and all of the fans that burst onto the scene this summer need to do is keep up the momentum. 

We're lucky that 2015 has plenty of opportunities to continue the soccer explosion on the American sporting scene from 2014. The 20th season of MLS, the Women's World Cup in Canada, and the men's Gold Cup (with a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup up for grabs) are all on the docket. 

In 2014 there was "Teddy Goalsevelt", but in 2015 we can all be our own version of the 26th Presidential super fan: involved, passionate, and spreading good cheer. Maybe even with a beer.

American soccer needs you.

Tags: FBM In Action, USMNT, Who We're Buying A Beer For, World Cup

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