Two busloads of Philadelphia soccer fans made the trip to RFK Stadium Saturday to taste the MLS atmosphere ahead of the 2010 season, when its own team will start play. John Smallwood was impressed by the D.C. United fans and the noise they made, but not by the old stadium, looking forward instead to the intimacy of the Philadelphia team's planned facility in Chester.
"It is difficult to properly transmit that atmosphere when there are only 18,000 people in a football mausoleum designed to hold 60,000," he writes (although RFK's capacity is now reduced to around 45,000). "However, the kind of energy contained in a stadium designed to exploit it should effectively bring the soccer experience to the Philadelphia region."
"It's going to be a lot more intense," said Bryan James, president of the Sons of Ben fan club who traveled to RFK with about 200 other Philly fans. "[Soccer] is not a spectator sport. It's a participation sport. You don't wait for a basehit or a first down to get into it. Instead of waiting to yell, 'Charge!' after a horn blows, you are engaged for a full 90 minutes of people trying to pick up the team, themselves, and the people around them. The beauty of the game is that regardless of the score and regardless of the crowd, you've got people engaged for the full 90 minutes."