June 29, 2014

No surprise, soccer gaining popularity here

We’ve seen the sights of big crowds in Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., and other places watching the United States men’s national soccer team in the World Cup.

That popularity and interest isn’t limited to just major metropolitans, though. Even people in Dalton are getting into the Americans’ run through the much-hyped “Group of Death.”

Inside the Chili’s off College Drive, people surrounded the bar June 23 to watch the United States nearly defeat Portugal — and have a win and group advancement snatched away in the closing seconds.

That’s just one example.

The Chattanooga chapter of the American Outlaws — the organized United States soccer fan club — filled Jeffersons Restaurant for all three group-stage matches. Others watched at different bars and restaurants in the area as the United States defeated Ghana, drew Portugal and lost close enough against Germany to advance.

The sport’s increasing popularity, locally and nationally, shouldn’t come as a surprise. People love a reason to show patriotism and cheer the United States — or whatever country holds their heritage — in any sport. Plus, soccer has become a consistent success for Murray and Whitfield counties, where seven of the eight high schools reached the boys state playoffs this past season. Dalton High School is a two-time Class 4A state champion and hasn’t lost a match since May of 2012.

The United States next faces Belgium in the second round Tuesday at 4 p.m. As the team continues to make on-the-field strides toward becoming a soccer power, we hope to see people filling the restaurants and bars once again chanting for the USA.

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