While soccer has steadily grown into American culture, one thing has remained stagnant: chant culture. Americans suck at creating original chants. I wish there was a better way to put it.
This trademark “Fight and Win!” cheer from the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer lives in infamy amongst foreign soccer fans.
It’s pretty clear why we get made fun of so often by soccer fans abroad. And if it’s not clear yet, take a look at what the standard of chanting looks like in Argentina, Germany and Morocco.
I’m not cherry picking the worst American chants and the most impressive chants from around the world either. The Sounders are known countrywide for having one of the best and most loyal fan bases in MLS, and they use this chant proudly at every single game.
The clips I’ve presented from clubs around the world showcase a fully original song curated by each group of fans. This level of passion, dedication, and inventiveness is the norm in areas where soccer is the most popular sport–which happens to be most of the world. The difference in creativity and volume between our songs and theirs is palpable.
This isn’t to say there’s any lack of passionate and loyal fan bases here. Take newly formed Charlotte F.C. for example. In their inaugural home match in Major League Soccer last February, they filled the Carolina Panthers stadium to its 74,479 capacity.
If you told me even five years ago that an American soccer club would fill more than 70,000 seats on their debut, I’d call you insane and delusional. Let alone a team from North Carolina, which, according to The 18 Futbol and Estately, wouldn’t even make the top 10 in American soccer hubs.
The point is, Americans love soccer now. However, creative and original fan music is a massive contributor to what makes a live atmosphere so electric. Until we’re able to improve upon this, we will continue to be subject to taunting and teasing from the rest of the world.
All of our most attractive fan traditions are borrowed from our friends in Europe and South America. Drum lines, constant singing from minute 1 to 90, flag waving, flares and tifos are all staples in soccer fan culture across the globe.
American fandoms have successfully adopted these traditions, and as a result, American soccer fan experiences have dramatically improved across the board.
Hearing entire stadium sections break into song over catchy drum beats is a spectacle foreign to most American sports, so it’s refreshing to finally see an American sports league like the MLS stand out from the crowd with these traditions. However, when the contents of those songs are just “let’s go *team name*” over and over again, something feels missing.
As of now, American soccer fans’ chants echo the most common trends amongst NFL and NBA crowds. Virtually every fan chant in America’s most popular sports follows the exact same two note, four syllable cadence sandwiched between five claps. Take a look at some of the so-called “best NBA chants ever.”
MLS fans unfortunately aren’t much better in this regard. While the frequency and consistency of fan music in the MLS is far greater than that of our fans in the more popular American sports, the quality of song is on a similar level.
My local club, LA Galaxy, is one of the original members of the MLS, and it also happens to be the most successful club in the history of the league. It comes as no surprise that the team prides itself on having some of the most buoyant supporters in the league. But as a childhood fan and former season ticket holder, I can tell you the supporter groups recycle the same three or four songs and a big chunk of them just repeat two or three words, much like the NBA and NFL crowds.
Considering the abundance of history and popular culture associated with Los Angeles and its sports teams, it pains me to see so much potential material go to waste. To demonstrate the level of difficulty of creating an original chant, here’s something I came up with in less than two minutes (sung to the tune of Que Sera Sera by Doris Day).
We founded this f***ing league,
We’ve got five rings, can’t you see?
Oh, you’ve got no history
You’ll never be Galaxy,
Maybe it’s not amazing, but it’s indicative of how simple it can be to invent something out of nothing. Now imagine what an entire city could come up with if everyone put their heads together and really worked to break the status quo in regards to American fan music.
If you need another exhibit of the state of creativity amongst MLS crowds, look no further than Los Angeles Football Club. As the Galaxy’s new cross-town rival, LAFC has amassed a surprisingly strong fanbase for a team that’s only five-years-old. What’s much less impressive is the fact that about half their chants are recycled Galaxy chants with their team’s name in place of their enemy’s.
Maybe it’s unfair to judge a club who’s only been around since 2018. It’s also possible I’m a little bitter considering my home team hasn’t won a trophy since 2014, while our biggest rival has taken home two conference championships and an MLS Cup in just five seasons.
In fact, it’s probably unfair to judge a country who’s only recently accepted soccer as one of the nation’s most popular sports. My critique of the state of MLS cheers is a testament to American soccer fans’ ability to embrace the sports’ most cherished fan traditions in such a small window of time. If we can consistently sell out stadiums, grow grassroots supporter groups with thousands of loyal members, and curate incredible banners showcasing our love for our local teams, there’s no reason why we can’t come up with some great, original fan music.
I never expected to see my favorite sport embraced by so many Americans. I’m so grateful to have been proven wrong.
As I reflect on my gripes with American soccer fans, I feel privileged that my biggest complaint now is “Our music sucks” rather than “Nobody else in my country even watches my favorite sport.” Witnessing the explosion of support for soccer in the U.S. makes it clear to me that it’s only a matter of time until our chanting game matches the level of the giants in Europe, South America, and Africa.
I dream of a day that Americans earn the respect of the world’s most passionate fandoms. In the meantime, I’ll continue to dread the inevitable storm of jokes aimed at our national team every four years when we can’t think of a single chant other than “USA! USA! USA!” or “I believe that we will win!” during our World Cup runs.