Sons of Ben

American football fans have been very busy recently. As there is no promotion or relegation between MLS and USL, the only way for a city to get a top class football team is to buy an MLS share, reputed to cost around $30m. To persuade the kind of cash-rich businessman who might fund such a venture to pick their city, lots of football fans in various cities have started fan groups before they even have a team to support. The most successful of these has been the Sons of Ben, a Philadelphia based group that has managed to bring football to the city of brotherly love.

Their method involved going to games and loudly shouting for their team. As their team did not exist yet, they also took to needling the opposition with a few chants directed at them. Here’s a Steven Wells article about them.

In June a convoy of cars carried some 30 SOB to a New York Red Bulls game. “We didn’t even have enough people to rent a bus,” says Dave Flagler.

This game saw the introduction of what’s probably the best SOB chant to date. Fans of Red Bull (formerly the New York/New Jersey MetroStars) were predictably outraged by “We’ve won as many cups as you, Metro, Metro. We’ve won as many cups as you, and we don’t have a team.”

They also went to the MLS final, and got on people’s nerves a lot.

In November the SOB took two busloads—about 100 people—to the MLS cup final between the New England Revolution and the Houston Dynamo in Washington, D.C.

Now imagine you’re a passionate New England fan attending the highlight game of the season, and smack dab in the middle of your section are 100 Philadelphians in Philly colors, banging a big Philly drum, singing Philly songs, chanting Philly chants, and generally being kinda up in your grill and, you know, Philadelphian.

This kind of thing has paid off big time for them, spawned numerous other clubless fan groups, and clearly plays a big role when crucial decisions are made. Of course, I am thinking of the possibilities in Finland here. Most people know that Tammela is the best stadium in Tampere, most people want Veikkausliiga football there, but it hasn’t happened yet. There are plenty of games in Ykkönen and Kakkonen for people to go to Tammela and demonstrate their feelings, and we saw that it doesn’t take many people to make a big impression on the atmosphere at Tammela, so how about a demonstration or two when the season starts?


One Response

  1. I am a fan of the New York Red Bulls, so the news of a new club in Philadelphia can only be good news for me. Another local rivalry, with the possibility of easy away travel, which is one of the things that keeps MLS from having the same kind of atmosphere you see all over Europe. George Gillett, the Liverpool co-owner, has also been making noises about trying to bring MLS to Montreal. With DC, Philly, NY, NE and possibly Montreal all within driving distance of each other, it could make for some tasty rivalries.

    Another one of the big hurdles MLS has had to overcome is the lack of appropriate facilities for soccer. With a new stadium well under way in Salt Lake and the Red Bulls completing their final season at Giants Stadium before their move to a sparkling new facility in 2009, there is a lot of progress on this front.

    Now to get three of tghe leagues more successful and well-established clubs – DC, Houston and New England – into new facilities. The DC project has been stalled for years because of political infighting, but I would expect an announcement to be made within the year. Houston reportedly are very close to announcing a stadium deal. New England, who need to relocate perhaps more desperately than any club in MLS, have not really made any noises about moving recently. Foxboro, where they currently play, is a massive American football facility out in the middle of nowhere. Boston is a great sports town and having lived there I think a new stadium either in Boston, Cambridge or nearby Somerville would be a huge hit, bringing in lots of young fans. You really have to make an effort to get out to Foxboro, with no real public transportation options.

    In any case, it’s an exciting time to be a fan of the game here in the States. I just hope that the league takes its time and does not expand too rapidly. Talent is already stretched thin and the league desperately needs to raise the minimum salary to ensure that players can make more playing soccer than they can flipping burgers at McDonald’s.

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