By Tyler Trent
Image courtesy of Tyler Trent
Soccer is the world’s game. However, in the United States that hasn’t always been the case. It has been overshadowed by football, basketball, baseball, and hockey for years. However, research has shown that fans under 45 comprise a larger interest in soccer compared to other sports, which is promising for the continued growth of the sport in the United States.
Soccer has been rapidly growing throughout the United States over the last decade. According to Nielsen research, the growth of Major League Soccer has saw a 27% increase in public interest since 2012. With Charlotte finally getting their chance at their own MLS team, it was bound to bring in new fans who may have never watched the sport in their life in the Carolinas and surrounding regions.
Being able to share Charlotte FC and soccer with potential new fans is an amazing feeling and makes for a unique experience for many people each gameday. There are many options to make a great experience out of a first gameday, and what makes that day special for each person is unique.
I had the pleasure of taking my longtime friend, Alex Stallard, to his first professional soccer game. Alex, a resident of Rock Hill, South Carolina, shared his experience and how it compared to other sporting events he has attended in the past. Primarily a basketball and football fan, Alex was ready to give soccer at try with Charlotte FC making an entrance to the Carolinas.
The First Game
On May 7th, 2022, Charlotte FC was set to face Inter Miami in an Eastern Conference matchup. Alex began his day traveling to the Supporter Tailgate before the match with friends, including myself. I recommended the tailgate lot as a way to meet some new people and get an introduction to what makes supporting a soccer club so special and different.
Alex hung out around the Uptown Ultras tent and wandered throughout the tailgate lot to take in all the different sights and sounds. La Femme Footie was running their Can4Can event with NoDa Brewing Company to raise money and donations for Safe Alliance. After donating to the fundraiser, we grabbed two cans of NoDa's Plum Gose before the rain struck. Luckily, it didn’t last long and the pre-match party continued.
Next, it was time for the supporters to march to the match. The chants rang loud as the supporters groups all came together to head toward the stadium.
We are Charlotte. The mighty black and blue. We are from the Carolinas. Sangre Negra Y Azul.
This is where the biggest differences started to appear for Alex. “The march to the match was probably my favorite part. It was an incredibly unique experience compared to what I've been accustomed to as far as sporting events go. The singing and chanting were super fun during the march as well.”
Alex soon arrived at Bank of America Stadium and picked out his seats in the supporters section before going to grab a beer and some food. The section was lively with anticipation for the match. “It was completely different from an atmosphere/energy perspective. It's hard to describe, but most of the people there seemed way more excited to be there than a majority of other sporting events I've been to.” That energy was about to be amped up to another level.
The Poznan began when the sounds of the hit 2021 song Pepas broke out over the speakers. Before the match, I told Alex about the Poznan tradition that started at Charlotte FC. I told him it was a way to honor the three Polish players on the Charlotte roster, and generate an even bigger atmosphere going into the start of the match. The Poznan celebration is most associated with the supporters of the club Lech Poznan in Poland, but many teams throughout the world have their own rendition. With arms linked and backs to the pitch, the Poznan began with Alex and friends jumping in unison with the entire supporters section. Growing up near Virginia Tech, this was reminiscent of their football team’s entrance to Enter Sandman for Alex.
After a scoreless first half, Andre Shinyashiki scored in the 68th minute right in front of the supporters section. The sound that erupted from the stands was deafening, and the chaos began in the supporters section with fans cheering and jumping in celebration. Charlotte went on to win the match 1-0 and the electric atmosphere continued all the way back to the parking lot. I asked Alex if he was interested in attending more games this season, and there was no hesitation in his answer, “I’d absolutely want to make it to another game and it’s definitely something made even better with a group of friends.”
Was a Charlotte FC Match Your First Professional Soccer Experience?
Were you new to soccer and interested in speaking about your first experience with the beautiful game watching Charlotte FC? Reach out to me on twitter and let me know! Everyone’s first soccer experience is unique and we would love to share more of your stories discovering the sport we all love and what you enjoyed the most about your first match!
For many of us, we have been attending professional soccer for years. Do you remember your first professional soccer experience? Let us know about it in the comments below!