On October 10th, the US Men’s National Team failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Fingers were pointed everywhere; players, coaches, US Soccer higher-ups – including President Sunil Gulati – and even player development academies. On October 16th, news broke of Columbus Crew FC, one of the founding members of Major League Soccer (MLS), possibly relocating to Austin, Texas.
In comparison to major European leagues like England’s Premier League and Germany’s Bundesliga, MLS teams lack a strong connection to the communities they represent.
Portland and Atlanta are notable exceptions to this rule, but devoted soccer fans remain a relative rarity in America. 1904 FC is looking to change that.
From the club’s very inception, the focus has been on connecting with the city of San Diego.
Even the club’s name – an abstraction of the city’s initials – is inspired by San Diego. Since the name was announced on October 18th, the club has hosted a plethora of community events, and has another planned for Tuesday. The club has also been supporting other soccer teams in San Diego.
On October 22nd, co-owner Demba Ba was on hand to help the University of San Diego celebrate men’s soccer coach Seamus McFadden’s 39-year career.
The Toreros defeated UCLA convincingly 3-1, and the USD fans were out in full voice. On Wednesday, 1904’s Twitter account gave a good luck tweet to the San Diego Sockers before their home win over Syracuse.
— 1904 FC (@1904_FC) November 1, 2017
The focus on community, which runs from 1904 FC’s owners to its fans, has the potential to evolve into a soccer fever like the one which surrounds legendary German club Borussia Dortmund.
In Dortmund, nearly everybody follows the club to some degree, the fans are passionate, and the stadium is almost always packed. While San Diego has plenty of teams to unite around, the United States is short on communities that rally around their soccer teams (again, Portland and Atlanta are among a few exceptions). Football, basketball, and baseball all overshadow soccer in terms of popularity, with NFL and MLB stadiums (and many NBA arenas) dwarfing MLS stadiums.
Baseball is not the only postseason in October, but many Americans do not even know which teams are in the MLS playoffs.
Even worse, few people outside of cities with USL or NASL teams even know that those leagues exist. If the US wants to be competitive in world soccer, the game needs to grow. San Diego is a perfect city for soccer to grow in. Drive south for half an hour to find the home of a club known for their home atmosphere in Club Tijuana.
If 1904 can continue to build on the soccer culture of the region, San Diego could rival, or even overtake, Portland and Atlanta in the ranks of great soccer cities in the United States. More importantly, San Diego could start producing US Soccer legends. It seems far-fetched, and maybe it is, but why not go for it anyway?
The start of the season is still months away, but 1904 FC already has people excited for soccer in San Diego. Keeping them excited once the season kicks off is a different matter, but 1904 is well on its way to building a large, loyal fan base in America’s Finest City.