Grassroots Support: Interview with a UWSL Support Group

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The United Women’s Soccer League is one of the lower-tier pro-amateur soccer leagues for women in the United States. Founded in December 2015 with eleven teams, the league has added five new teams playing in its three conferences for the upcoming 2017 season.

Backline Soccer takes a moment to interview Southeast Syndicate, the supporters’ group for the Detroit Sun FC, one of the UWSL’s new expansion teams. The SE Syndicate is currently the only supporters group within the league.


 
Backline Soccer: Detroit Sun FC belongs to the United Women’s Soccer League, a second-tier women’s soccer league–what are some challenges of supporting a lower-tier team?
 

SE Syndicate: The biggest challenge of supporting a lower-tier team is spreading the word about your club and supporter group. Once we are able to get people to the matches, we can support just as passionately as any top-tier team. Without a big platform it’s tough to reach people that would be interested in joining our group. We advise our members to share about the SG and club via word of mouth and social media.

BS: What has the relationship like between the team and players and the supporter group? What sort of efforts or outreach do you have planned for the team?
 

SES: We have talked to the owners of the team and are excited to help them support local women’s soccer and our club. As the club was only created a few months ago we haven’t had many opportunities to see the players in action. We have a lot of things planned for the team. This off-season we will be working on many projects to support the team. We will be painting banners, making chants, (possibly) providing some merchandise , and other activities in order to let the players know that we love and support them every match. Also, our club is looking to find ways to positively impact our community and we are excited to be a part of that!

BS: Have you taken cues from other supporter groups or has the culture grown on its own?
 

SES: The lower-tier supporter culture in Michigan has exploded over the past few years and we have definitely been inspired by the boom. That being said, we are excited to do things our own way and make our own little dent in American soccer culture.

BS: Do other teams in the UWSL have supporter groups? Are other groups forming?
 

SES: Grand Rapids FC has had a men’s team in the Premier League of America and National Premier Soccer League for a few years now. They have recently announced the creation of a women’s side to play against our beloved Sun FC in the UWSL this summer. They have a great supporters group called the Grand Army. We are excited to become enemies for 90+ minutes and yet also form friendships. They are the only group that we know of in the UWSL.

BS: Do you have a relationship or partnership with supporter group for nearby men’s teams? Or is there any mutual interaction between supporters for local men’s and women’s soccer? What about NWSL supporter groups?
 

SES: We do not have any relationship with supporter groups for men’s teams. We are 100% focused on supporting Detroit Sun FC this summer. It doesn’t matter who you support for men’s ball if you are singing with us on Sun’s Match day! We have had a few members of NWSL Supporter groups wish us luck, but without a NWSL team closer than Chicago, the point becomes mute.

BS: Do you see (or hope to see) a path toward entry into the NWSL, the US’s first-tier women’s soccer league? And what role do you think a supporter group can play in bringing about that transition?
 
SES: Without a merit-based path to the first-tier, entrance into the NWSL is dictated by the ambition of the owners of Detroit Sun FC. Yes, we would love to one day see Detroit Sun FC in the NWSL. But for now we are focused on pushing the club toward a UWSL championship. I feel like our supporters group can play a role in bringing the NWSL’s eye to Detroit Sun FC. The passion and numbers that we bring to every match will hopefully spark interest in the club. As we said, our main goal and focus is supporting our club in the second-tier. We want to have a positive impact on the inaugural DSFC season.