Tuesday, September 21, 2010

8,700 fans for a NCAA soccer match? Of course

A time traveller from the year 1994 arriving in San Luis Obispo in 2010 would incorrectly extrapolate the '94 World Cup soccer interest in the USA and assume that 8,700 fans must be totally normal and a logical progression from the WC excitement. 8,700 fans for a college soccer match makes it the 10th largest crowd (Soccer America) ever for NCAA soccer. So, what to make of it?

Well, 8,700 is news precisely because it isn't the norm. The last 16 years have seen a slow and steady rise in the MLS, but it still is only the 6th or 7th most popular pro sport in the USA, depending on what one measures. But people who live in SLO aren't the sort that cares to live in NYC and root for the Yankees. They probably wouldn't have gone to the game is their team consistently lost, but thrills come in many different colored packages. SLO residents consider themselves better than the average townies. Heck, they can get 5,000+ to show up at a farmer's market every Thursday evening.

The weather was perfect. The Cal Poly Mustangs have gone a coon's age without a single goal against at home. Soccer isn't $80 (or even $35) a ticket, so the whole family can go. The Spanos stadium upgrades a couple years ago have created an intimate sports arena with great site lines. If you build it, sell it at a reasonable price, on a nice night, with the reasonable hope of a winning feeling at the end, they will come. Even, or maybe because it is 3,000 miles from Gotham City.

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