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Kansas City World Cup Watch Events Spawn Serious Soccer Fans

Frank Morris

At least 13,000 fans chanting “I believe that we will win!” jammed the central common area of the Power & Light District in downtown Kansas City, Mo., to cheer on the U.S. men's soccer team Tuesday in their World Cup match against Belgium.

Many were literally waving the American flag. Even more were wearing it.

Miguel Torres, in a red-white-and-blue top hat, beads and body paint, came out to support the country as much as the team.

“I think whether or not you are into soccer, you should be behind your country 110 percent,” Torres said. “Those guys on the field are the 11 best our nation has to offer.  So we should root for them. Make them number one.”

Most of the crowd seemed to share Torres' sentiment, even recently converted soccer fans like Remmington Pinick.

“USA man!” bellowed Pinick. "Gotta love the patriotism of the country, it’s great. All these people just makes it fantastic — better than any place in the nation, in the world. We rock here in KC!”

Kansas City’s Major League champion soccer team, Sporting Kansas City, drew a lot of these folks, Pinick included, into the game. As a bonus, two Sporting KC players were on the field against Belgium: Matt Besler who grew up in Overland Park, Kan., and Graham Zusi.

Whitney Novak watched the last World Cup at the Power & Light District four years ago, with a lot fewer people. In the final minutes of Tuesday’s game, she said that even with the loss, U.S. soccer has momentum.

“And so maybe, four years from now, we’ll have even a better team, and more people out to watch,” said Novak.

The U.S. team’s late goal was richly celebrated downtown … it wasn’t enough to win the game, but many said the game was enough to make them soccer fans for life.

I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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