As the 2014 World Cup gets into full swing, it is becoming apparent that many of the fans rooting for the US National Soccer team come from every corner of the world, making the fan base of the team a melting pot of America. From Argentina to Zimbabwe many soccer fans rooting for the US National Soccer Team have roots in another part of the world.
According to Reseda, CA resident, Carlos Vasquez, following the United States is easy because he has been dissatisfied with his native Guatemala’s national team for years, and cannot cheer for Mexico.
“It’s easy for me. I love to fly the American flag when the national team plays even though I am from Guatemala. It’s the only country in the world where you don’t get harassed when you root for another country other than your native country,” said Vasquez.
New York Times reporter, Sarah Lyall, explained that Vasquez represents a growing number of expatriate soccer fans now living in the United States. They still love their homeland, but they cheer the United States team to victory. In many cases this growing fan base grew up watching soccer in another country, making them highly knowledgeable about the sport and more comfortable cheering on their country of residence.
“Soccer used to be a special club that only a small group knew about. America’s fans have reached a point in their road from the fringes to the mainstream,” said Lyall.
Therefore today’s US National Team fan represents not only the melting pot of America, they also represent the gasoline that will continue to help move soccer into a major sport in the United States. In fact, Lyall explained that an example of how fans of the US National Soccer Team have become representatives of America’s melting pot can be found in a group called “The American Outlaws”. The American Outlaws started seven years ago in Nebraska, and today the club has grown into nearly 150 chapters across the country. The members of group see themselves as outlaws in the international game being played during the World Cup, because soccer is not as popular as basketball, American football, or baseball to U.S. audiences.
“One of the great things about being a fan of soccer in the United States, is that it fits in with America’s diversity. We try to incorporate as many cultural styles of support as possible, because we can learn from cultures that have a lot more experience in being soccer fans,” said American Outlaws head of communication, Dan Wiersema.
In Miami alone, the group membership has exploded. According to Miami Herald reporter, Natalie Fertig, Miami is now the third-largest chapter in the country, having grown to more 300 members in the past year. The group started with just ten.
One member of the American Outlaws of Miami explained that he was born to Ecuadorian parents, and remembers watching many soccer matches with them. However, while he would always like to see Ecuador advance, his real team alliance is with the United States.
“I was born in here, and I was the Army. I always cheer for the United States. I am all USA,” said Frank Serrano, vice president of the Miami American Outlaws club.
Even the team itself is a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds, explained Face 2 Face Africa writer, Cherae Robinson. For example, the US National team’s striker, is Jozy Altidore, a Haitian American. In addition, at least five players, including Julian Green are German-Americans, using English is their second language. Central defender Omar Gonzalez is a Mexican- American while midfielder Alejandro Bedoya father and grandfather played professional soccer in Colombia.
“Fans of countries that aren’t in the World Cup feel a greater affinity to teams that have their compatriots,” said Quartz Magazine reporter, Jason Karaian.
Two additional elements are helping contribute to the stew that makes up the United States National Soccer Team’s melting pot of fans. One is the growth in the Hispanic population. According to the Wall Street Journal Reporter, Amol Sharma, the Hispanic population in America has grown to include nearly 20 percent of the entire US population.
“In the years when the World Cup has grown, the Hispanic population has grown as well,” said Sharma.
In conjunction with the growth of the Hispanic population, television coverage of soccer has contributed to the numbers of people watching soccer in the United States. According to the Wall Street Journal, with more soccer aficionados in the United States and more hours of soccer coverage, it is not surprising that the fan base surrounding the path of the United States National Soccer Team has also taken on the same diversity as America. According to the Nielsen ratings company, an average of nearly 25 million viewers have watched the World Cup this year in the United States. This number may pale in comparison to say the N.F.L. playoffs, but it blanks out the 15 million viewers who tuned in to watch the N.B.A. finals this year, or even the World Series, which averaged just under 15 million viewers in 2013.
There is no doubt soccer in the United States is growing in nearly every aspect. This success can be traced to the melting pot roots of America, making fans of the US National Soccer Team unofficial ambassadors of the United States.
By Vincent Aviani