Soccer in the Bay Area has been thriving this summer, evidenced in part by the sell out crowd at last night’s MLS All-Star Game in San Jose. Yet, the sport’s popularity the region is not limited to the last few months.
In tracking some of soccer’s major events this summer, a common theme that emerges is the number of high-profile games the Bay Area has landed. Aside from last night’s All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium, other notable matches include Copa America contests at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
One true advantage in this case is having two state-of-the-art venues–Avaya opened in 2015, and Levi’s opened in 2014 and has already hosted a Super Bowl–that can feature such events, but this trend speaks to more than the stadiums. Rather, the Bay Area has been a soccer hub for decades, which some of the sport’s most prominent players have experienced first hand. More from Marinij.com:
Professional soccer arrived in the Bay Area in 1974, in the form of the San Jose Earthquakes of the North American Soccer League. The team was popular from the start and would eventually add one of the greatest players in the sport’s history, George Best.
The legion of Best’s fans included 12-year-old Brandi Chastain, whose family had Earthquakes season tickets. Chastain still has her game programs from the original Earthquakes franchise.
“When I was a little girl playing soccer, people asked, ‘Why do you play, it’s a foreigner’s sport,'” she recalled. “I didn’t understand what that meant.”
Chastain just knew she loved the game. The Earthquakes franchise would leave and return, change its name (to Clash), change it back, fold, reform, and eventually toil away in aging Spartan Stadium. But the large-scale dynamics steadily shifted in soccer’s favor.
The Bay Area is probably one of a handful of regions in the United States that can claim a soccer culture that traces back decades. Now that it has the facilities to match that passion, it should continue to be a magnet for major events.