In case you were asleep yesterday, the Champions League final was on. Foul, Red Card, No Goal, Arsenal’s keeper sent off, Barcelona wins 2-1. Even more exciting, however, was how many people in the US showed up in the middle of a weekday to watch the match. Triangle Soccer Fanatics had a decent turnout:

Thanks to all that turned out for the match viewing today. I hope you had as good a time as I did. It was great to meet all the new faces and see some old ones again. We had a total of 24 folks show up today which I believe is a new record for TSF.

24 may seem small but we’re talking about a moderate sized southern city where many folks work in a huge research park. Youth Soccer there is big, but still, we’re not a metropolis in any sense of the word. Of course, those of us in central NC are pretty psyched the USMNT is in town to get ready.

Things in NYC were even more exciting

Steve Gilliard @ The News Blog had some interesting insights about attendance in NYC:

I passed by two bars which were packed. I walked in one, ready to get a drink and there was no place to stand, forget sit. I watched for a few minutes and then went on my way realizing that it would be pointless trying to watch the rest of the match with Gunner and Barca fans unable to breathe. In fact, people were hanging outside to get the score.

I’d never seen anything like that before. in New York. Sure, with a big Premiership match or Celtic playing, you’ll get a crowd, but this was crazy.

People keep saying, well, we heard this 10 years ago.

When did ESPN show a live soccer match 10 years ago, forget a Champions League final? Jon Stewart do an ad for Fox Soccer 10 years ago?


Ok then.

I’ll put it this way, soccer is far more popular in New York than NASCAR. Despite their desperate need for a track here, as if New Yorkers think NASCAR isn’t for morons. Like Wal Mart, they need to grow in the Northeast, and got about the same reception.

However, soccer has a nice cult niche, and a language lots of people understand. This is probably the only organized sport most kids play, and grows in popularity because people understand how to play.

It’s not baseball, but it’s not invisible either, there is an audience for it, and even the know nothingism of Jim Rome is now seen as a joke Nike can exploit as a commercial.

The funny thing about the crowd is that it was mixed, ex-suburbanites, expats, NYU kids, not just immigrants like it might have been in the past. When Greece won Euro 2004, Astoria broke out in celebration. That wouldn’t have made the news 10 years ago. In 1986, the World Cup final was shown on UHF.

Steve has an amazing memory – he can pull up very relevant but obscure historical facts that drive home his point with authority – the UHF quote is dead on. What was it like in your neck of the woods? Were people flocking to the bars to catch the game? This bodes very well for the World Cup in the US folks. I’ve had a LOT of people who I never expected knew what soccer was talking about the World Cup and when the first matches are.

I’m playing around with an article about the soccer blogosphere where I go into this in more detail… Blogs about soccer have exploded this year, especially in the US (since they had already established a ‘Footie‘-hold overseas). Its clear there are a lot of fanatics across the country and as soccer bloggers, we should do everything we can to fan the flames of excitement for the World Cup. Meetups at bars to watch the games are a great idea as are things like tailgating before MLS matches (if you can) and so on. If you’ve got other ideas, by all means post/comment them and share! I’m still not sure exactly what I’ll be doing. I expect I’ll be sending lots of info to our youth league parents with info on the matches and maybe even try to arrange for my U10 and U8 teams to meet at someone’s house to catch the USMNT matches.

Oh – and note to Yahoo – add more servers – the FIFA World Cup site is horribly slow.

UPDATE: Here’s the commercial Steve was referring to in his post.