Finally, a place to play Mexico that won't feel like Guadalajara.
That dream lasted 24 hours, because when Italy played Mexico at Legion
Field the next day, some 30,000 Mexican-Americans arrived by carloads from Georgia.
The 1994 World Cup, 1996 Olympics and qualifying for France '98 revealed that the U.S. men could draw
large home support. But usually, big crowds come from the visiting team's immigrant populations.
So far in 2000, Iran and Haiti were cheered on in the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl as they would
be in Tehran and Port-au-Prince. Some may forget, but American national team players are always reminded that this is a land of immigrants.
Most immigrants find themselves in the peculiar
position of pining for a homeland that had no satisfactory place for them. At soccer games, they can celebrate their heritage without honoring the conditions, whether economic or political, that
caused their flight.
One can't complain about the immigrant turnouts, because without them, the U.S. men would face embarrassingly small crowds. The hope lies in U.S. fans emerging out of
the ethnic populations.
Today's immigrants bring their love of the game to the United States and find that soccer has a solid foothold in the mainstream. Their children are much more likely
to remain involved in soccer than the immigrant children of the past, who tended to shun it in their quest to Americanize.
By playing good soccer, the national team can build a fan base from
groups who are now rooting for the opposition.