MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – If you watched the U.S. take on Belgium at a bar viewing party, there was likely a wait just to get inside.
“Packed with people, can’t move in or out,” soccer fan Christian Roemhildt said of Brit’s Pub.
“I’ve seen it kind of grow here, it’s just amazing to be in a place where everybody is super excited,” fan Karen Bookler said.
The U.S. men’s national team drew 19 million viewers for its last game. Among the fans was the Minnesota United FC pro soccer team.
“When we were this little we’d watch the [World] Cups and now it’s really cool to see how much it’s grown,” Minnesota United FC forward, Jamie Watson, said.
Watson says he’s noticed people being not only more interested, but more knowledgeable about soccer surrounding the World Cup.
“There’s such a draw to it now and people feel connected to it,” Watson said. “They feel like this is my country, this is my team.”
The team’s head coach Manny Lagos has played with some of the current USA players. He credits the World Cup craze to USA’s talents and the emergence of new pro teams in the U.S.
“I don’t want to be a contrarian but I think it’s been planting seed for the last ten years,” Lagos said.
For soccer players, they hope the growing interest will continue, giving the sport a spotlight here at home long after the World Cup is over.
“The way that the entire country has rallied around the team, I think it’s won over the hearts of a lot of soccer fans,” Watson said.
The fans said they were proud of team USA, win or lose.
“We can show we can contend with other teams who have been to the top tier of soccer,” Roemhildt said.