What a season for Vandal soccer! In the preseason Idaho was picked 7th out of 10 in the Big Sky Conference. They ended up finishing 2nd in the northwest division to earn a spot in conference post-season. Lets take this momentum and turn it into something! I want to explain why I think Vandal fans should become soccer fans as well. Lets support this program like never before next season. Give me a chance to explain why.
For those of you that follow me on Twitter, you know I am a soccer fan as well as a football fan I used to love going to Guy Wicks Field when I was in college and watch our ladies’ team play. I’d even watch the men’s club team on the Sprinturf.
Now, I did not grow up a soccer fan. In fact, I used to joke about the sport. But I did always find it odd soccer wasn’t bigger collegiately. Soccer is insanely popular as a youth sport in Idaho, especially the Treasure Valley. But when the Seattle Sounders moved to the MLS in 2009, I bit, hook, line and sinker.
The Northwest loves their soccer. What would it take to bring a supporter’s culture like the ones in Seattle & Portland to Moscow?
First step is to get the students involved. The growth of interest in the sport has been led by Millennials and Gen Z. Being in a supporters section is a lot like being in the student section at a college hoops or football game, just a tad more organized and can be even more fun.
Idaho has an organized student section that, if we are being honest, could use a shot in the arm and a rebrand: The Vandalizers. Now, I don’t want to totally steal them from basketball, though they have noticeably decreased in numbers over the years. Rebranding them as an organized student supporter section for soccer could get some new students interested in the organization. Soccer is played in the fall, so it would be a good way to refill the Vandalizers roster and get them in larger numbers at hoops games in the winter.
Because supporter culture is so important in soccer, the supporter groups are what make soccer unique. It is marching to the match, singing and chanting all match, and tifos. How cool would it be to have organized march from the “I Bench” at admin building and walk down “Hello Walk” to the Kibbie. Then reveal an amazing tifo poking fun at Boise State, Montana, Eastern or Idaho State and then chanting and singing all match long!
I get that this will make no sense to some people. The demographic for soccer is typically younger. Millennials (recent grads) started the boost in interest. Zoomers (current students) are the the turing tide demographic for the sport. While Generation Alpha (upcoming students) are expected to take Soccer into the modern era of fandom, which is why a league like the MLS is expected to pass leagues such as MLB, NHL & NBA in popularity, meaning this is more of a question of when, then if.
Creating a soccer culture, specifically female, would set the University apart. Most of the major soccer Universities also have a men’s team. Idaho does not. We can fully invest into our women’s program and make it the envy of many.
We already have seen glimpses of what could be. In 2017 vs Boise State, we drew 4,171 spectators, in 2019 it drew 2,169. That is impressive for a mid-major school. To put that in perspective, in this millennium, the Stanford men’s team’s largest attended home game was 2,919 vs Cal. In fact, in 2018 UConn led the men’s average attendance with 3,213. We are talking about men’s soccer. Traditionally, men’s sports draw larger attendance. Tell me this isn’t doable for the Idaho women? Fun fact, in 2017 Idaho was already 36th in the country in average attendance, and 30th in total attendance and we weren’t even trying!
The only schools really trying on the women’s side to create a soccer culture and big time atmosphere are Portland and BYU. This is setting up to have some viral home and home moments. With these two programs out west, we could easily schedule both, especially if all three programs create the standard for women’s soccer attendance.
We all have watched the USWNT see extreme success on the field and in the stands. If Idaho has a shot at a national title, women’s soccer could be built into one. There just isn’t a school, alumni base and student section really behind their programs. So why not us?
The team on its own is primed to be worth watching as well. Four All-Big Sky players this season. Manager Jeremy Clevenger won Big Sky coach of the year as well. The blocks are in place to stay winners.
The sport is undoubtedly growing, let’s be at the forefront for once!
I would love to see this movement start gaining steam, even if I personally have to spearhead it! If I was Terry Gawlik and the Athletic Department, I would be planning for a triple header of sorts for Idaho Homecoming next year. Friday night at the bonfire, give out the 2021 scarves for free, lead a chant with the newly rebranded Vandalizers and lead a march into the dome for kickoff against an awesome regional opponent (preferably not BSU) and anyone with a ticket to Saturday afternoon’s football game or the ICCU Arena court opening game Saturday evening gets in for free, everyone else is $5 a ticket.
Pack the dome Friday, Saturday and the new hardwood twice all in 48 hours!