Why American Soccer – Supporters Supporting Supporters
Planting the Seed of Soccer Across America: Danny Beerseed
Editor's Note: This anecdote is from our journey from FBM HQ in Austin to Frisco to take in the FC Dallas vs. Sporting KC match. But it is also heavily influenced by the awesome openness we've seen on our USMNT travels to Denver, Seattle, and Salt Lake City this year. Local fans welcoming “outsiders” with open arms and being gracious hosts.
The fans clad in red had picked their spot next to the stadium. This was their sport. They were always here before a game. Grills lit. Kegs tapped. Territory staked out.
Before long supporters wearing various shades of blue arrived. At first there were only a few, the men and women in red paid little attention to them, but then the chartered buses pulled up. The hiss of each of the two buses loudly announcing their arrival. One-by-one…. more blue. The supporters of each, now their numbers more equal, stood toe-to-toe sizing each other up. A mild breeze flapped each groups' flags.
This was Texas so if it was an old Western movie one could imagine a tumbleweed rolling across the scene along with a pan flute and “wa-wa-waaaa”.
The hesitation was slightly, but the two groups moved toward each other… and embraced.
Backslaps, handshakes, scarves shared, the clinking of beers, and gentle banter of the evening's match ensued.
These are the supporters of American soccer. More friends than foes.
On this particularly hot and breezy Texas afternoon the one of the supporter groups of FC Dallas, the Dallas Beer Guardians, welcomed a travelling band of Sporting KC supporters, the Cauldron, to their tailgate.
No f-bombs or knife fights. The only blood spilled was from one FCD supporter to another when he accidently caught an elbow to the nose from a fellow fan as the Hoops made a dramatic, two-goal comeback late in the night's game.
The relative short history of Major League Soccer (and even less so in the leagues below) means that the deep-seeded rivalries of a Chivas-America, River Plate-Boca, Liverpool-Manchester United, or a Barcelona-Real Madrid have not yet evolved. And while we won't know if any of these clubs' supporters shared beers fifty or a hundred years ago the camaraderie of the majority of MLS supporters now bodes well for the future.
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There's a sense among soccer supporters in the United States that “we're all in this together”. That even the rivalries, while emerging, are mostly in good fun. Supporters can separate what happens on the field for ninety minutes from the tailgates before and the bars afterwards. The greater goal is building American soccer and fans of the league are keeping their eyes on the prize.
There are certainly very intense rivalries in MLS (Portland-Seattle, LA-San Jose, Philly-NY, etc) and the passion of each set of supporters from those teams is palpable, but overall when the road team's fan travel they're usually welcomed with open arms by the home side's fans.
For the traveling Cauldron the eight-plus-hour drive down Interstate-35 represents the closest road match they're able to attend. Why spending a night in the Frisco Police Department lock up over a brawl when you can sample the DBG's local craft beer selection they provided for themselves and their new KC friends? It's probably why one of the Beer Guardian's flags is emblazoned with “#BeerFamily”. That's what is should be mostly about anyway; a cold brew and a little polite conversation over which state makes the better BBQ.
Saturday was no different and this is what makes American soccer great. Two teams facing off on-the-field, but their supporters enjoying each other's company off-the-field.
No one is asking for sanitized, family-friendly supporters, but just the idea that we'd much rather share a beer than a fist-fight. A war of words and wit (and their team backing it up on the field) can be just as effective.
It's what sets American soccer apart from the rest of the world. We don't have to resort to hooliganism to support our teams; to violence and vitriol to prove who is better.
As the Sporting supporters prepared to re-board their buses after conceding two late goals to draw the match there were the FC Dallas supporters. Not to rub the tie in their faces, but to offer up one more local beer, well-wishes, and safe travels home.
This is American soccer. This is why American soccer.
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