Op-Ed: A Soccer State of The Union from Hipster Central

Matthew Biggerstaff doesn’t dubstep around Generation Y Soccer in America

Good evening.

The Evil Empire?

As one of TSG’s youngest contributors (Matt has lovely and legitimate conversations about car seats and strollers with our men’s league teammates) it is my duty to keep you informed on the social status of the game we all love so dearly with the most important generation (that being my own, of course).

All self-importance aside, I do think that people ages 16-25 are the critical group that must adopt, love, and share the game with their peers to continue the rapid rise in soccer awareness in America if you will.

This will lead it to become a mainstream part of our society (specifically the MLS and USMNT) after some of the great work people like Matt Mathai and supporters groups across the US have done to build supporters and the league.

I know, the first thing you think of when you think of this group is GET OFF MY LAWN, however there have been some positive signs and encouraging progress, including pissing off people like Dana White. Hopefully my observations can provide some insight into how the game is progressing from a social standing.

In case you missed White’s (head jabroni of the UFC) rant at the end of March, here is a brief recap.

‘Can’t stand soccer. It’s the least-talented sport on Earth. There’s a reason three-year-olds can play soccer. When you’re playing a game when the net is that big and the score is 3-1 (and that’s a blowout) are you kidding me? You know how untalented you have to be to score three times when the net is that big?’

Apparently Mr. White forgot that just ahead of soccer on the list of things three year olds like to do, is wrestling and fighting. Jimmy Conrad responded via youtube and his analysis was spot on.

First off, tangent much Dana White?

Why does soccer threaten you so badly?

Is it because when this was posted on Facebook and Reddit everyone laughed at your ignorance and wondered what stick got stuck up your ass?

The reaction that I saw was a bunch of people embarrassed for a guy who has ‘Old Newspaper Sportswriter Syndrome’, otherwise known as the need to knock something they do not understand or like. You know, that columnist in the paper who has been the baseball beat writer since the beginning of time and can’t figure out what all the noise over this ‘World Cup’ is and decides to share his two cents on how soccer is a fad and kids play it until they are 12 and then don’t follow it anymore and suddenly they mutate into ‘true’ (ie baseball) sports fans like some sort of weird genetic experience.

We get it Dana, playing a bending pass to beat three defenders to an onrushing striker after a 12 pass buildup doesn’t take as much talent as fighting someone in a confined space.


These gentlemen (generally, I haven’t seen any ladies dumb enough to write this sort of article) are a relic of time having been passed by. I’m sure most of them think the internet is a fad, and jorts will be good to wear on warm days this summer. In contrast to this, I will share some things I have seen amongst my peers in the last two months that strongly contradict this stance that ‘Soccer is stupid, no one likes it, it will go away.’

I was driving in a neighborhood in the Bay Area on a nice day and I saw a dude about 12ish skateboarding in a crisp red Landon Donovan USMNT kit.

First, I was jealous, as that kit is FRESH and he looked better than I did right then, not to mention I haven’t purchased that jersey, so I had some jersey envy in that moment too.

It got me thinking about when I owned my first US kit (probably not until 19?) and the fact that kids these days grow up with the USMNT as role models and a team to cheer for, and they wear their gear as well. This exposure didn’t exist when I was in middle school ten years ago. My friend Shawn pointed out that yes, while it is cool an American kid is rocking the US jersey while skating, kids in Europe are rocking their national kits while actually playing instead of skating. We have to start somewhere though right? My friends and I always prized our jerseys as the height of our middle school fashion, so if you were wearing a jersey, it had to be of someone you really liked and would stand behind as a fan. None of this ‘oh I guess I kinda like that team, my aunt and uncle got it for me’ but real support. You weren’t showing up rocking a Charlotte Hornets jersey without a good reason that you were wearing it. If young Americans think US soccer is cool, we are getting somewhere (and consider me Miles Davis.)

What's up.....Chivas?!

At the mecca of all things cool and fashion forward, Coachella, I was accosted by multiple MLS jerseys.

In case you don’t know what Coachella is live without the iFins, it is an indie/electronic music festival in Indio, CA (weekend 1, holler) that attendees would say is the most important place to be all year and the pinnacle of being ahead of trendiness.

It was here that I first saw a Chivas USA jersey as we pulled into the campground and parked.

At first I thought ‘Chivas USA fans do exist?’ but then realized that if one was wearing any outfit at Coachella, it was carefully curated to make a statement as you only get three days of showing your finest fashions to your fellow campers and the ridiculous magazines like US Weekly that cover it.

However this was no random sighting as later I saw an attractive female with an Henry NYRB jersey on Saturday afternoon. You must understand that for a girl to be wearing this outfit, it truly meant something. My own girlfriend spent a minimum of 6 hours picking, preparing, and matching her Coachella outfits and I was privy to at least 4 picture messages and 17 text message on my thoughts on said outfits. (Note, the lady and I follow the delicatessen’s principle to looking at those of the other sex in public. “I’m still getting the ham sandwich, but the turkey looks nice today.”)

She spent more time on those outfits then I did packing and preparing for the entire weekend! The fact a crispwhite Henry was gracing the Polo Fields was an affirmation of the league’s success in itself. I am sure Don Garber will be happy to hear that the league has made it based on said fact.

Your fearless writer in his Coachella finest. We go bananas.

My coworkers have thoughts on the new national team kit.

Not only do they have thoughts but they have preferences and favorites! from previous years. One coworker, who said he preferred preseason MLB to Champions League action, forwarded me a Deadspin video about the new US kits, and proceeded to let me know he thought the new ones looked like Waldo and he liked the blues from last year much better. At this point, another coworker stated that he liked the 2009 white (which I think is certainly one of the best of recent years) and that the denim jerseys of 94, although paired exceedingly well with a mullet, should probably see the light of day about never again. The fact that they not only care about the US jerseys but have solid opinions on them and would bring them up without me mentioning them is a certain leap forward. It would be a stretch to call either of these guys big soccer fans, and yet here we were discussing the finer points of the US third kit.

If nothing else, let these examples strengthen your case, you out there who annoy your coworkers with your discussion of the USMNT’s latest friendly or who you think is going to win the golden boot in the MLS.

Continue bringing those topics up amidst the scorn and funny looks.

To you, rocking your US red kit or the Columbus Crew black kit as you hit up the dive bars when you go out in your city, keep rocking it. You are one of the taste makers and leaders of the next generation. To you, the MLS fan who drags his friend to a game and buys him a beer, keep showing the light to those in the darkness. To you, the annoying Facebook poster who posts highlights of MLS games and ‘Goals of the Week’ that your friends secretly watch and enjoy but don’t ever comment or like, keep hitting that share button. Your posts are just as valid as the dude posting about what his frat is doing this weekend and the girl with the album of 287 duck face pictures from last night.

Morgan feeling ducky....

Seriously, a Wondo goal > all of the duck face pics in the world….except Alex…maybe.

To all my people spreading the gospel of the beautiful game, especially those of you not old enough to know what a cassette looks like but who bump Levels regularly (catchy isn’t it), keep doing your thing.

Soccer continues to rapidly grab prominence and credibility in the US. We will lead this country to greatness, not on the pitch (unless our men’s league counts, which certainly multiple teams think we are playing for the World Cup every time out), but as a country of rabid, well educated soccer fans who support their national league and team fervently.

The time will soon come when ESPN will show MLS highlights and have educated commentators (GASP!) on SportsCenter with legitimate highlight analysis. Until then, know that the younger generation loves the game as much as you do and has your back. Even if dubstep doesn’t.

27 responses to this post.

  1. This article scares me on multiple levels, yet leaves me satisfied. I’m quite afraid. Also, I barely understood half of it despite being younger than Matt.


  2. Posted by Conor on 2012/04/26 at 8:48 PM

    I’m a part of the lowest end of this generation (16), and the improvement I’ve seen is absolutely fantastic. My twitter timeline was packed this past Tuesday and Wednesday with Champions League, and I enjoyed every second of it.
    There’s no question that I’m the most hardcore out of all of my friends but I have no issue going into school and discussing the games from the past weekend, who played well exc. We’ll see how well this translates with WCQ’s this year.


    • Posted by Biggy on 2012/04/26 at 9:20 PM

      I am with you. I love seeing my facebook/twitter streams blow up with people who have intelligent commentary or care about the game. It gives me faith that we will get there!


  3. Posted by EFG on 2012/04/26 at 9:00 PM

    So what do we call those that wear soccer jerseys as a statement, ironic or not? If those that wear/wore basketball jerseys are/were known as “Hoopsters,” then what is the equivalent term for soccer jerseys? I feel like we can come up with something.


    • Posted by Biggy on 2012/04/26 at 9:21 PM

      straight ballin. not sure but I like this idea a lot. soccsirs? pitchsters? we could go somewhere with this movement.


      • Posted by EFG on 2012/04/27 at 5:03 AM

        Ooh, I kinda like “Pitchsters”


        • Posted by Biggy on 2012/04/27 at 1:47 PM

          pitchsters works for me. TSG you should put up a poll or something.


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/27 at 5:09 PM

            right side bar


            • Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/04/28 at 7:15 AM

              Posers? Oops I let my truly feelings show.
              I don’t want a “hipster” defining anything that I enjoy. Then I’ll have to hear him listen to him explain to the rest of his avant garde appareled bro’s talk incessantly about how newest Bill James Soccermetrics are applied to his Fantasy Soccer team while drinking the latest, organic free range/carbon neutral/ free trade/handmade ale/vodka/absinthe.
              Makes me pine just a tad for the lonely Saturday mornings at the Dark Horse in Philly with a few friends in the 90’s just watching soccer with some other guys wearing the same team jerseys that they played in on Sunday morning…
              But that’s just me.

  4. Posted by rbp on 2012/04/27 at 12:01 AM

    Good article – important topic sorta.
    I’m about 10 years older than the author and def have noticed the pop culture aspect mirror the on field level. I think it’s actually a key tangent and indicator. think about it, what dominates 10-16 year olds decision making? coolness factor. at what age r the best athletes choosing their sport?

    Anyway, my recent revelation was this. I took my three year old to the local school where a little league game and two peewee games were going. as my kid played in the sand I juggled the ball a little. in 20 mins three different 8-10 year olds at different times joined me for a few mins and each showed a level of skill I didn’t have until high school. the bar is rising.


  5. Posted by Yaznasty on 2012/04/27 at 4:28 AM

    Anytime I’m out anywhere and I see someone wearing a soccer jersey I feel like I’m in a special secret club with them. I hope our club gets bigger.


    • Posted by crow on 2012/04/27 at 6:54 AM

      Lol. I try to rep my dempsey kits as much as I can. LAST YEAR, I went up to the Osheaga music festival in Montreal. I received numerous chants of Deuce and several knowing head nods. Same thing when I saw Animal Collective in Baltimore.


  6. […] The Shin Guardian has a soccer state of the union “from Hipster Central.” The future looks bright. […]


  7. Posted by Jim on 2012/04/27 at 6:32 AM

    The year: 1990- I had been playing youth soccer for a year but had no idea a World Cup was happening that summer.

    1994: I found out that the World Cup was being held in my own backyard about a month before it happened. My P.E. teacher told me. My dad and I were introduced to the USMNT. What a glorious summer. Several of my small circle of 4th grade friends who played soccer also found out about it. I even had a friend whose dad bought him the faux denim kit.

    Winter, 1995: My new Eurosport catalog had pictures of all these dudes sporting crazy looking uniforms. Hey, what the what! The best, classiest looking kit had a caption near the picture that said D.C. United. Holy crap, that’s my hometown team! My sister cut out the pictures of Jeff Agoos, Eric Wynalda, John Harkes, and Tony Meola and pinned them to her bedroom wall.

    1998: A whole handful of my friends had US jersey’s for watching the World Cup. At that point, all of my soccer friends had kits from all over the World, though the only foreign soccer most could watch was what was broadcast that summer.

    2002: World cup viewing parties at 5 A.M. with my high school friends. Fireworks set off for wins against Portugal and Mexico. Angry fireworks set off after the Germany match. Still, it seemed few people outside of my circle of friends really cared.


  8. Posted by Jim on 2012/04/27 at 6:32 AM

    2006: My father-in-law (whom I worked for that summer) let me take off work to watch the matches. He even took some of his associates out to view this curiosity that was the WC. He was pretty disappointed that the US wasn’t dominating the world, though.

    2009: The leadership at my new office actually played Confederation Cup matches on our projector. Some people actually seemed to care about the game being played. There was mild hysteria at the Spain match

    2010: Never seen anything like it. From 1990, when I didn’t even know there was a World Cup being played, to packed out bars at 11 AM… Pandemonium at every goal. My father-in-law actually read about Donovan in the newspaper!

    2012: I don’t question the popularity of soccer now. Soccer, in my opinion, is as popular just about anything but the NFL. The one nagging issue I have is with the hordes of Europhiles who refuse to acknowledge the domestic game. At least they’re interested though.


  9. My well-worn, handsome-making jorts want to go on the offensive Barca style for your ascertation they are not to be worn this summer.


  10. Posted by Antonio Henry on 2012/04/27 at 8:33 AM

    I might be the only man on the planet that owns a #30 Eric Lichaj AVFC jersey. I wear it whenever I go out on Villa match days. Every single time someone asks me “Who is LEE-chahj?” And I smirk, correct them, and proceed to tell them.

    I think Jurgen said it best, “You can’t stop soccer in this country”


  11. Posted by Matthew Owen on 2012/04/27 at 11:49 AM

    What’s UFC? A fried chicken restaurant? I’ve honestly never heard of it.


  12. Posted by section1guy on 2012/04/27 at 8:32 PM

    Bringing the UFC into this is crazy. The reason Dana White would bring soccer up is because Soccer and Mixed Martial Arts are battling for the fourth spot in the sports pecking order behind football, baseball, and basketball.

    Both have surpassed Hockey easily.

    Whether Dana White’s comments are ignorant or not, trying to come back at mixed martial artists for being untalented is a lot worse. A soccer player loses a fight a lot faster than it takes for a fighter to be marginally successful at soccer. Those are just simple facts.

    As great the strides are that soccer has made (hey I’m one of them that became an okay fan in 2002, bigger by 2006, and now a full-fledged EPL, MLS, USMNT fan), it will only be set back by this whole hipster thing. It can’t become a major sport in this country if its going to be owned by the hipster culture. Seattle and Portland may be huge supporters of soccer, but it won’t catch on anywhere else if its “ironic” to like soccer.

    It will only continue the whole “soccer is gay” mantra that most jock types live by.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/27 at 9:46 PM

      Actually, to be quite honest and I haven’t mentioned this yet.

      I think Dana White’s comments were quite calculated.

      UFC and Soccer are not battling for the fourth spot in sports pecking order.

      They are battling for the same Latino and urban demographic that soccer is and has been targeting.

      So many of the sponsors (Tequila, Volkswagen, etc.) are the same.

      I think White’s comments were calculated attempt–though utimately a failed attempt–to target a group of fans.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/27 at 9:47 PM

        And quite honestly, soccer right now is battling more against baseball for ratings. Baseball is up next with it’s 1.0 nightly ratings.


      • Posted by EFG on 2012/04/28 at 6:57 AM

        Definitely calculated as he made those comments in Canada in connection with hockey. As they’ve had UFC events in Rio, I find it very unlikely that White would be foolish enough make those comments in Rio.


  13. Posted by section1guy on 2012/04/27 at 8:35 PM

    Sigh… I had a long comment, and it’s gone now.

    This will sound a lot dumber now.

    Point 1: Soccer and Mixed Martia Arts (UFC) are battling for the fourth spot in the sports pecking order

    Point 2: As great as soccer is, a fighter can play soccer tomorrow. A soccer player cannot fight tomorrow.

    Point 3: Soccer will become more mainstream if we STOP connecting it to hipsters. That’s the point that mainstream sports fans talk about. “Soccer is gay.” That’s the mantra, right? Well, it’s not going to stop being gay to the jock-types if its only being followed by hipsters.


    • Posted by Matthew on 2012/04/28 at 3:00 AM

      I am an Airborne Ranger. I love the game. I talk about it at work with other Airborne Rangers that love the game. Sure we get some friendly ribbing but when talk about the athleticism required to be a soccer player most generally agree that the speed, strength, endurance, agility, adaptiveness and creativity makes soccer players phenomenal athletes. MMA is bad ass and those guys are great athletes. I generally apply this rule to sports: Can I play that “game” while drinking beer (golf, bowling, NASCAR, and baseball)? You don’t have to hate in order to love.


  14. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/04/28 at 8:36 AM

    Mrs Cross has the 2010 home US jersey and an official FIFA WC 2010 USA scarf – she definitely gets some ‘fan equity’ from other fans – you know, the little nods and acknowledgements. And she always flirts with getting a NYRBs jersey, but hasn’t pulled the trigger yet. Perhaps this season?

    And I am one of those uncles who buys his nieces and nephews US / MLS gear…


  15. Posted by Rodrigo on 2012/04/30 at 8:18 AM

    Three year olds can fight and play soccer. Neither may be at a high level, but maybe Dana White has too many blows to the head to understand that? Dana, 1=1 = 2. Three year olds may know that, but the square root of 49 is 7. Something three year olds and punch drunk UFC types can’t fathom. Try running 7-miles a game without taking a between round timeout. “Me punch you in da mouth, threfore, I bigga than you and more betta.” Come on Matt, go see a lobotomist! But maybe the hemispheres of your brain already severed?


  16. Posted by Rodrigo on 2012/04/30 at 8:20 AM

    Typo in above, meant to say 1 + 1 = 2. Can you handle that Dana? We move to multiply by 3s starting next week. Go cram!


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