As someone who has not been shy about their feelings on fans picking a team and sticking with them, why would I become a member of 9 different supporters groups?
The idea of a supporters group is, for those who don’t know, a bit like the fan clubs of old. They are a way for fans to connect together to talk about that thing they love that others in their lives might not understand. And having people to tail gate with is always a bonus too, right?
We should take a look at the supporters groups in the NWSL. This is not meant to be a full list but it is the one that I am going off of based on who clubs recognize.
The Chicago Red Stars have Chicago Local 134.
The Houston Dash have Bayou City Republic.
The North Carolina Courage have the Junkyard Dogs.
The Orlando Pride have the Black Swans Drinking Club.
The Portland Thorns FC have the Rose City Riveters.
The Reign FC have the Royal Guard.
Sky Blue FC have Cloud 9.
The Utah Royals FC have The Court.
The Washington Spirit have the Spirit Squadron.
Currently the Court, the Royal Guard and the Spirit Squadron do not have memberships open for 2019 but I have been told both will be open soon. Everyone else is accepting memberships.
Soccer culture in America, men’s or women’s, pro to amateur has a very different history than it does in other parts of the world. And that is understandable. NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL teams and fans color the modern sporting landscape in the US in a way they just don’t in other countries where soccer, rugby or cricket are king.
As with a lot of things in American soccer, modern supporters group culture only goes back so far. And often it has been grown in a broken stream as leagues and teams come and go. That effect is felt all the more in women’s soccer.
But supporters groups are something found far and wide and for good reason. In supporters groups you can find people ranging from the die-hards who could name the roster in numerical order, alphabetical if you rather have it broken down that way and tell you their college stats if you were interested all the way down to the new fan who just doesn’t want to go to games alone.
They stand and drum and make tifos that range from jokes about Chicago pizza being a casserole (Thank you Cloud 9 for that gem) to the Rose City Riveters creating one that says “We Are Family” over different LGBT related flags.
But the question stands as to why I would join all of these supporters groups when both my ability to get to games is limited because of where I live, and I wouldn’t get the full effect of the supporters group as I don’t sit in the stands during matches?
Because I want the NWSL to thrive. I want this league to celebrate 10 years and then 20 and one day 100 years of being in existence. To get there investments have to be made, teams need to grow and yes some might step off the pitch at the end of a season and never walk on again. But most of all fans have to show up, be involved and hold the clubs accountable. Supporters groups are a great way to facilitate that.
Often times supporters groups are in the best position to offer constructive criticism to their clubs. As the issues swirl around Sky Blue FC, their own supporters group, Cloud 9, has been a strong voice of accountability for the club.
Offering my money to these groups is a small gesture to help them survive and grow. But it is something I can do to help today. I hope the tweets I put out and this piece nudge those not in supporters groups to join. Or at least think about the reasons why you might or might not want to.
I asked on Twitter for those who are in supporters groups to tell me why they joined. I think the only fitting way to wrap this up is to share some of their stories.