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Last Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006, 00:40 GMT 01:40 UK
World Cup fails to fan US football fever
With football's World Cup just weeks away, the BBC's Jamie Coomarasamy visits a Major League Soccer match in Washington DC, to find out if footie fever has struck in a country where "football" is played by men in shoulder pads and helmets.

Advertising banner for Team USA in New York
Advertisers are trying to drum up interest in Team USA
As the minutes ticked towards kick-off at the top-of-the-table clash between DC United and the Kansas City Wizards, the atmosphere at the RFK Stadium was closer to that of a school fete than that of any professional football game I have ever attended.

On the forecourt outside the pitch, there was a collection of small inflatable football pitches and bouncy castles, where queues of children had formed.

This was family-friendly football and, appropriately enough, the majority of those attending were families.

Among them were Beth Mays and her son, Josh.

She is a fully paid-up soccer mom - one of the millions of American mothers who shuttle their children to soccer practice two, three, or, in her case, four nights a week.

Like many of the people I met, she was attending her first professional game.

"I never knew it would have so many family activities," she said. "We'll definitely be coming here regularly."

"But what about the USA World Cup team?" I asked her. "They're rated pretty highly."

"Are they?" she asked with a look that was initially blank, but clearly open to persuasion. "Well, I'm sure we'll be cheering them on."

Father and son fans

Just past a tombola stand, I met a more knowledgeable - and more conventional - football-going family: father and son Bob and Andrew Brown.

Bob, a civil servant in his 50s, told me that he had been going to DC United ever since they were formed 10 years ago.

Jamie Moreno (right) of DC United in action against Kansas City
United's Bolivian-born captain earned a cry of "Gooooooal!"
He has travelled to England to see Liverpool, his club, and Chelsea play, and he could testify just how different the atmosphere was at Premier league games.

The Browns are - for the time being - a rare family in the United States, one where the father had passed his love of football down to his son.

The majority of fans milling around them were children - boys and plenty of girls - each wearing their favourite kit, each having dragged along unwilling-looking parents.

But Bob was the genuine article, a member of the Screaming Eagles supporters group, who - as I would find out inside the stadium - love to bounce up and down on their part of the terraces, causing the structure to vibrate rather alarmingly.

But, vibrations aside, there was a sense of harmony in the stadium, which doubles up as a baseball field for the Washington Nationals.

Home and away supporters mingle freely (although I was hard-pressed to locate a Kansas City Wizards fan, hoping to conjure up a victory for the visitors), as do the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking supporters' groups.

In fact, Bob told me, some of DC United's most popular chants are in Spanish.

Free of fever

His 15-year-old son, Andrew, is a member of America's soccer generation.

Most of his friends play the game, he told me, although that does not necessarily mean that they have caught World Cup fever.

He will certainly be following Team USA, but I asked him how many of his school friends would be taking an interest.

"Oh, about 20 kids in my grade," he told me. "Out of 300."

Still, there was plenty of excitement inside the stadium, as DC United won 2-1, thanks to a penalty scored by their Bolivian-born captain, Jaime Moreno.

The English-speaking announcer got pretty excited, but it was his Spanish-speaking counterpart (all the announcements are made in both languages) who let out a tonsil-vibrating, drawn-out, Latin American "Goooooooooooooooooal!"

If the United States win the World Cup, there may be a similar burst of enthusiasm from America's soccer moms and dads - although it is most likely to come from their kids.




SEE ALSO
USA team guide
27 Apr 06 |  USA
World Cup fixtures
09 Dec 05 |  Schedule
Have your say on the World Cup
28 Apr 06 |  Football
BBC World Cup coverage
27 Apr 06 |  BBC coverage

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