Staying on Cloud 9

FacebooktwitterreddittumblrmailFacebooktwitterreddittumblrmail

Sky Blue FC made headlines in 2018. Everyone was talking about them for the rest of the season, tuning in to their games, tweeting and re-tweeting articles and comments. They were all anyone could talk about.

For all the wrong reasons.

Sky Blue FC, out of Piscataway Township, NJ, has certainly had its ups and down. As the only club still left standing since women’s professional soccer began, it has quite a history. I was fortune enough to interview Jennifer Muller, the current pack leader of Cloud 9 – the supporters’ group for Sky Blue FC. Not an easy task the last two years or so, Jen and other members of Cloud 9 have continued to show up and show out for their club, through the wins, the draws and the losses. Through Sam Kerr’s comments about conditions; through exposes, articles and the tweets. Through players unwilling to play there. Through owner and Governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, promising to make things better. Through Sky Blue FC finally finding its feet and winning games. Cloud 9 is comprised of people who are loyal, want to see success and love this team beyond reproach. Pretty much everything you could ask for from a Supporters Group. 

Muller gave me a little overview of how she became interested in the club and ultimately ended up helping get the club’s SG off the ground officially in 2015.

Like any new SG, it wasn’t a smooth road. “It was pretty hap hazard. We were in the bleachers near the beer garden, and we’re thinking maybe we would be able to get people interested in joining, but it was hard to get off the ground.” A rough beginning saw some light at the end of the tunnel with the 2015 Women’s World Cup. “That first game back, with all the national team players back, there was a huge boost. They sold out that game and were able to get people to move in and it was great.” Muller’s love for Cloud 9 shone through as we discussed her role with the club and how things came about. In 2016, Cloud 9 saw membership numbers go up as people became more and more interested in Sky Blue FC. “New members are typically people who are already soccer fans but are the person in their friends group who likes soccer, so they don’t have anyone to go to games with.”

One of the great things about supporters groups is the instant access to people who are open and friendly and welcoming to anyone who is coming to their first game, 10thgame, or 100thgame. Cloud 9 doesn’t just have NWSL fans; they also have a crossover smattering of MLS fans from the New York Redbulls, New York City FC and even the Philadelphia Union. Because Sky Blue FC is nestled in such a small but unique location, they’re able to get those different types of members, who in turn tell their friends. “It’s a lot of word of mouth, boots on the ground, kind of thing.” Muller tells me when I asked what their marketing looked like. “Social media plays a big role in letting people know about the club.” With 12 games left in the season, Cloud 9 will continue to support their club and do everything they can to attract new fans.


And that starts with letting people know what it’s like to be a part of Cloud 9. I posed a few questions to some members of Cloud 9 about their experience in the group. They provided their answers below.

Danny Kane:

When did you first hear about the club?

1) I started watching women’s soccer a decent amount around the 2012 Olympics, but had no clue who the club teams were. Around 2014/15, Jen Muller started telling me about Sky Blue. I went to my first game after the World Cup (Yurcak is inconvenient as hell for me, so it took a bit to convince me), got season tickets in 2016. On the one hand, it’s great that supporters bring their friends. On the other hand, how the hell can a pro team rely on that? I’ve never seen Sky Blue advertised. Cloud 9 members have brought in a ton of fans, including many new members, but we shouldn’t be the team’s best advertisement.

What made you want to become involved?

2) I support women’s soccer. The 2015 World Cup got me sufficiently hooked I wanted to make as many games as possible. At some point when things went to hell last year, I was loyal to my friends in the section, and especially our players, so I was gonna make it as much as I could, even if it wasn’t fun, which is where I’m at now (though the last 2 games have me a little optimistic)

How has your experience been, being in a Supporters’ Group?

3) The SG is great. We pump each other up, we keep it as fun as we can, and there’s no feeling like leading the support, especially after a tough win. I can’t imagine watching a game anywhere else. 

What is the ABSOLUTE one thing you want people to know/understand about being a Sky Blue fan?

4) It often sucks. Ownership doesn’t care (remember, the progress we made this year brought us back to the status quo that Sam Kerr actively tried to leave). Our field is in the middle of nowhere. We haven’t had a decent chance at playoffs in at least 2 years, and haven’t made playoffs since I’ve been watching. I love our players, and I often love going to games. But it’s a weird feeling to be okay with one of your favorite players leaving, because she’s in a better place. I didn’t renew my season tickets this year, because I don’t trust the ownership. I think Alyse is a huge upgrade over Tony, but I don’t think she was put in a position to succeed. So I go to basically every game, but I don’t trust the team enough to commit to them. And I don’t know exactly what I want. A field with adequate facilities would certainly be a start. The feeling that our organization is as professional as our players (and that our players are treated like world class professionals) would be ideal. When I feel optimistic, it’s always tempered, because I don’t think we’re anywhere near that ideal.

Michelle Fowler, who is one of the new members this season.

When did you first hear about the club?

I’ve been following NWSL since its inception, so I was made aware of Sky Blue through watching NWSL YouTube streams. 

What made you want to become involved?

When former players started speaking out, and articles written, about the conditions players were being subjected to, I saw how much Cloud 9 fought for the players. I admired the commitment of the SG to keep the story at the forefront and demand change. I wanted to be a part of that support, even in some small way. Joining Cloud 9 and showing up was the best way for me to do that. 

How has your experience been, being in a Supporters’ Group?

It’s been an awesome experience, better than I thought it could be.  I was very nervous to go to the first tailgate/game alone. But, I didn’t have to be worried. I was greeted right away by Jen. Several others came over, introduced themselves and made me feel very welcome. It’s a very accepting group and you can just be who you are. Most of all we have FUN, no matter the result on the field. You feel like an active participant when you are singing and chanting and you see the players appreciating it. 

What is the ABSOLUTE one thing you want people to know/understand about being a Sky Blue fan?

Our players come to do battle every game and they do it with a lot less than most other teams in the league. They appreciate every fan in the stands and fight for you. It makes you want to cheer a little harder for them and makes every win just a little sweeter. It’s more than worth the price of admission!

Margaret Ligouri

When did you first hear about the club?

I first heard of Sky Blue and the NWSL one night when I was watching old USWNT videos when I was in college. All of a sudden, I saw a video for a league game, and I did a little digging and saw there was a team that played practically in my backyard. I could see all my favorite players, in person, so close to home. It seemed too good to be true.

What made you want to become involved?

I became involved in supporters groups and with Cloud 9 because I didn’t want to go to games alone and I want to be as involved in supporting the league and the players as I could.

How has your experience been, being in a Supporters’ Group?

I could not have imagined then, what a greater impact being in an SG would have on me. In Cloud 9 I’ve found my soccer family, people who get me and accept me and share my passion for soccer. I came into the WoSo community right around the time I graduated college and being a part of a group like Cloud 9 helped me transition away from college life and not feel so intimidated by suddenly being out in the world, with no idea what to do.

What is the ABSOLUTE one thing you want people to know/understand about being a Sky Blue fan?

The absolute one thing I want people to understand about being a Sky Blue fan, is that we know things suck, we know we’re the butt of a lot of the jokes around the league, but we don’t care. Our club has the richest WoSo history of any club currently in the league, we’ve been around from the very beginning and that’s why we fight so hard for it. Yeah, we want the players to have the environment and support they deserve, and we want to win, but we also want to preserve the legacy of women’s professional soccer in America, and that means doing what we can to keep this club from falling apart. And that’s what it is to be a Sky Blue fan.

Jen Muller, Cloud 9 President

When did you first hear about the club?

My first exposure to the team was in 2008 at a post-Olympics USWNT game at Giants Stadium. That week was the initial allocation for the WPS and Sky Blue acquired Rampone, HAO, and Tasha Kai. I remember Kai wearing a Sky Blue scarf as she signed autographs after the game. I was (embarrassingly) only a casual fan in the WPS days and didn’t really start going to games until 2014.

What made you want to become involved?

I went to a few games in the 2014 season and noticed there wasn’t much of a supporters’ presence. I met Melissa Correa, who was basically carrying the torch for Cloud 9, at the WC Qualifiers in Philly and asked if she wanted help in getting the club off the ground as a proper SG. I tried to bring in some of the things I learned being a board member for the Empire Supporters Club (RBNY SG) and this whole thing has snowballed from there. 

How has your experience been, being in a Supporters’ Group?

Being a part of Cloud 9 and watching it grow over the past few years is something very special for me. When I was first introduced to supporter culture it changed my life. Seeing that happen for people in Cloud 9 warms my heart. 

What is the ABSOLUTE one thing you want people to know/understand about being a Sky Blue fan?

It’s not always easy being a fan of Sky Blue. Between having a less than optimal record, a less than professional stadium, and owners who still have not convinced us that they are willing or able to raise this team out of the depths of this league, it can get draining. But, no matter how bad things are on or off the field, at the end of the day we are here for the players. They leave it all on the field every game until the final whistle. We do our best to do the same for them in the stands.


What more could you ask from a Supporters Group who continue to show up, game after game, loss after loss, and remain beyond proud of their club and their players. As fans, it’s easy to switch allegiances and root for clubs who consistently win. But for members of Cloud 9, it’s not about the records or what people think about them; it’s about the players and showing them that their Supporters’ Group will always be there to love and support them, even when everyone else has written them off. After all, every cloud has a silver lining. 

Follow us on Twitter