American Soccer Culture Has Arrived

Maura Gladys on the emergence of a thriving soccer culture in the U.S.

About 15 years ago, I got my first copy of the now-defunct soccer equipment catalog, Eurosport. Every month I pored over the shoes, the jerseys, the little write-ups highlighting some of the games greatest players. It’s here that I first became aware of soccer not only as a sport, but as a culture. It’s pages told of a magical place thousands of miles away where people not only watched the game, they went nuts over it. I dreamed of going over there and experiencing the passion that seemed out of my reach as a 10-year-old girl in Pennsylvania.

Five years ago, I went to London. Here, surely I thought, this passion and fandom would be oozing out of every pub. And for 4 months, I did experience that emotion and excitement. But it was different than I thought. Sure, I went to games, supported a club, cheered on England at Wembley. But, I felt as if I was experiencing it all from the outside looking in. I was there, but I couldn’t quite touch the essence of the excitement.

Last Sunday, I was at a beer garden in Brooklyn packed with people watching the United States’ second group game against Portugal. And that place that I had read about and dreamed about, what I had first seen in the pages of a magazine, the feeling that I had gone searching for, was right there.

The American fan culture has arrived. It’s original and new and beautiful. It’s the appreciation for a German-born man’s impeccably American hustle, grit and talent. It’s the worship of a captain with immeasurable amounts of swagger and heart. It’s “I Believe That We Will Win” and the effort that it takes to fill Chicago’s parks and cram under the Brooklyn Bridge. It is, above all things, passion in American form.

And no matter what happens on Tuesday in Salvador, things will stay this way. We will not go backwards. We will not search or dream for something far away or unattainable. The ceiling is lifted, and I cannot wait to see how high we can go.

Follow Maura on Twitter at @mgladys