Mexican soccer team most popular team in Phoenix?
Phoenix is a major sports town, but the most popular team in Phoenix does not play football, baseball, basketball or hockey. In fact, the most popular team in Phoenix rarely plays in Phoenix – they aren’t even from America.
According to Phoenix Business Journal, the most popular team in the Phoenix area is the Mexican national soccer team.
I’m not joking.
As a soccer fan, my first reaction was to be excited to hear that the sport I’ve played/watched/loved my entire life is gaining in popularity and has people talking. I know about half of you are thinking of closing the window because you think this article is all lovey-dovey about the Beautiful Game, but keep reading.
My second thought (and the more rational one) about this statement is no way. That’s impossible.
I’m not going to delve into the complexities of illegal immigration, because Mike Sunnucks with the Phoenix Business Journal wasn’t discussing that and neither am I. Did the fervor of Mexico versus the United States add fuel to the fire in Saturday’s Gold Cup final? Of course it did. The Mexican people support the hell out of their team and show it by selling out stadiums, buying shirts off the racks and talking about them in a positive light. Hard to picture for a lot of Phoenix fans.
The Phoenix sports market is a bear to play in and be a fan of. Being a native, I’m all too aware that thousands of people a year move to the Valley from elsewhere in the country and planet. It’s tough to be a Phoenix fan when you go to a home game packed with away fans (Example: anytime the Red Wings come to town). While these fans may root for their team while they’re playing here, their attitude changes when the game is over.
In my experience, most people who live in the Phoenix area want to see the teams here do well, and that includes the Mexican soccer fans. Having logged far too many hours behind a bar and worked with and bet on soccer games with Mexico fans, I’ve noticed a few things.
Sunnucks’ article points out that many heads were sticking out of kitchens on Saturday so the staff in the back could catch the Mexico-U.S. match — and they were (I was there). But those same Mexican fans poke their heads out to check on the Diamondbacks, Suns, Cardinals and even the Coyotes. They want these teams to do well and often sport their apparel.
I have had customers do the same. While they may have the team they grew up with, they don’t come in to talk about the Rams or Dodgers; they come in to talk Arizona sports.
The idea that the Mexican national soccer team is the most popular team in the Valley is fun to entertain, but almost impossible to prove with certainty. El Tri has some of the best fans in the world, but those same fans will be asking me tomorrow who is going to head the Cardinals offense next year, not what Chicharito (he’s a Mexican soccer star) had for breakfast.