By Dylan Botelho, Staff Writer
New England has it made with their sports. We have the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox, and Bruins who could all win themselves a championship on any given year. When walking down the street in Boston it’s likely you’ll pass by a number of diehard fans of one or even all four of those teams. You’d be really hard-pressed to find someone as passionate about New England’s fifth major league sports team though, Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution.
Soccer, or football as it’s known everywhere else around the world, is undoubtedly the world’s most popular sport. Here in the United States, we think of the Super Bowl or the World Series to be the “world’s biggest stage” but it doesn’t even come close. Every four years the World Cup posts Super Bowl breaking attendance and viewership metrics.
In 2014, over 1 billion people watched the World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina and 3.2 billion watched the entire competition collectively (ESPNFC, 2015).
Although already king of the sporting world, soccer continues to grow in practically every country. According to FIFA’s 2006 Big Count survey, there were about 265 million people actively involved in the game of soccer around the world, just around 4 percent of the entire world’s population.
So why hasn’t it caught on here in the United States?
Well, the truth is that it sort of has. Around 3 million kids play in U.S. youth soccer leagues around the country (US Youth Soccer Organization). In 2012, soccer was ranked as the country’s second most popular sport among 12-17 year olds according to ESPN Sports Poll Annual Report. The mainstream growth of soccer stops after the youth though. Expect the game to blow up within the next 10 years. We’ve already seen exponential growth within the MLS already in the last few years, with an increased popularity, the MLS could become one of the countries “big leagues.”
The United States number one soccer league though, hasn’t yet appealed to the “average” American. It also doesn’t help that the U.S. Men’s team won’t be participating in the 2018 World Cup after failing to succeed in the qualifying rounds.
It does however, have maybe the most passionate supporters out of possibly any league in the United States. While there aren’t 40,000 people out tailgating and throwing each other through tables on Sundays like you’ll see come from viral videos out of “Bills Mafia,” there are loads of diehard supporters for their cities’ clubs who show off some of the most magnificent displays of loyalty and pride.
Practically every team in the MLS has their own unique and uber passionate support groups. Although the MLS hasn’t taken off nationally and internationally as supporters had hoped, the Timber Army of the Portland Timbers is internationally recognized as one of the world’s best support groups.
This, all from a recent expansion team in a country where a mainstream audience doesn’t really care about the sport.
The life and contribution from fans means so much more than it ever would in any other league. To all the big franchises in the NFL, even the stinky Browns, you’re just money in their pockets.
Mat Silva, a sophomore here at UMass Dartmouth agrees, “I feel like I’m part of it all. In soccer, the crowd and the atmosphere is so important, the MLS has that feel. One of the best sporting events I’ve ever been to was the Eastern Conference Finals between the Red Bulls and Revolution.”
In the MLS, support groups are just as much a part of the team as players. They march down the streets on the way to the arena with their kits and scarves, singing the songs and chants unique to their team. In their hands they carry tifos ready to wow the world, if they ever see it. Who cares if the world sees it though? It’s not about the world, it’s about the team. It’s almost what makes the MLS so special, the connection between franchise and fans is personal.
So, if you’re ever bored by Brady, check out the New England Revolution, I mean they even play in the same stadium as the Patriots. Who knows, you might really enjoy it and find yourself a part of the Revolution’s support group The Midnight Riders.
Next thing you know; you’ll be swaying back and forth, arms locked with your nearest neighbor, singing your heart out to “Africa” by Toto.