The question of how big soccer is in the United States always seems to get more play around World Cup time. There is plenty of evidence that shows how the sport is growing in the U.S. so that discussion should be shifted to what comes next. Seeing the USMNT support in Brazil is another way to confirm the fervor with which people have adopted soccer. Even fans of different countries are taking notice.
Initially I was skeptical about the support. Walking along the beach in U.S. gear can bring some strange looks. It is either a look of shock that there are people from the USA or just a form of scoffing at the USA guys. Some seem to be wary of the Americans for their true love of football. In fact, the customs officer asked if we really like football “up there”. A sidewalk vendor tried to sell us a Chile hat.
So far this portrays a strange world that the USMNT fan is encountering in South America. However, that is not the case in many instances as there were plenty of people smiling after you say you are from the USA. All it takes is a moment to talk and the positive pours out. There were Switzerland fans telling us great win after the USMNT beat Ghana. Several English fans talked to us about how pessimistic they are about their team but the U.S. looks good, yeah? One was even wearing the USMNT away jersey. There was a Netherlands resident who wanted to discuss the repercussions of Jozy Altidore‘s injury. There are countless others from countries across the world who smiled, gave the thumbs up or spoke of good play by the USMNT.
Some of these fellow fans called the game soccer when talking about the USMNT. They did that with a straight face. The common thread seemed to be that the players were a real team and not necessarily superstars. They are coming together for a cause. The talk was optimistic coming from fans of all countries.
The Ghana match was in many ways a home game for the USMNT. I spoke with many sitting in BWI or JFK on the way to Brazil that had planned to follow the team around to their other two group matches. Fanfest at Rio was said to be about 70 percent USMNT supporters on the night of the first match in group play. The USMNT away jersey has been spotted in many places. There was also a contingent of people wearing red, white and blue basketball uniforms with the name of a president on the back at the Spain – Chile match.
U.S. fans still have a long way to go to match some of the conviction from fans of other nations. However, if the World Cup were held in the United States it would be quite a scene and U.S. Soccer fans would shine. The support in Brazil will continue and popularity of the game in the U.S. will keep getting better.