For years, pundits and skeptics have questioned whether soccer would ever truly catch on in America. Over the past few weeks, it’s become abundantly clear that it already has.
You could see it in Chicago. You could see it in New York. You could see it in Boston. You can see it in the TV ratings, which have been monstrous, and yes, you could even see it in Newburyport. Millions of people across the country stopped what they were doing yesterday to watch the U.S. team take on Belgium in the Round of 16, including several hundred locals who packed The Port Tavern to catch the big game.
Even a half hour before the opening kick, every seat in the house was taken, and by the second half there were so many people crowding around the different TVs that the servers practically had to fight their way to the tables.
One family had flags and patriotic top hats, several people painted the American flag on their faces, and one girl even did her lips red, white and blue. Everywhere you turned there were children wearing soccer jerseys and parents wearing various patriotic outfits. One guy brought his baby along decked out in a red, white and blue shirt. Another had a T-shirt that simply said “Murica.”
Dermot Bolger, one of The Port Tavern’s owners, said it’s pretty much been the same story for all of the U.S. team’s games. Regardless of whether the team plays on a weekend or a Tuesday, morning or night, the bar has been packed no matter what.
“There’s more interest in this World Cup than any I’ve seen previously,” said Bolger, an Irishman who came to the U.S. shortly after the country hosted the World Cup in 1994. “There’s about 100,000 U.S. fans who traveled to Brazil, three times more than any other country in the world, so there’s huge support and it’s great to see.”