On Wednesday June 12th, the local soccer club the New England Revolution played a game on Boston soil for (I believe) the first time. The match saw the Revs face the New York Red Bulls in the Fourth Round of the US Open Cup. If you’re not familiar with the US Open Cup, it is a knock-out tournament open to soccer teams from amateur levels to the lower professional divisions and on up to Major League Soccer similar to the FA Cup in England and the Copa del Rey in Spain. This is the 100th year of competition for the US Open Cup which has a rich if overlooked history.
MLS teams like to schedule US Open Cup home games in alternate venues to allow a more intimate setting in front of fans who may not usually make it to their league games. The Revolution wisely scheduled this match at Harvard University’s Soldiers Field Socceer Field. Most Revolution games are played at Gillette Stadium, designed for NFL football for their roommates the New England Patriots, and located in the podunk town of Foxborough* about 30 miles southwest of Boston. Both the field and cavernous stands of Gillette are ill-suited to soccer. Harvard’s field veers to far in the opposite direction of being too intimate with seats for only 2,500 fans, but it is a good first step for the ultimate goal of having a professional men’s soccer team call Boston home.
A rainbow crossed the sky before the game and continued to reappear in the first half with the two ends of the bow appearing to reach from goal to goal. The Revolution’s die-hard supporters groups marched in before the game and filled up a grassy berm at one of the goal ends where the lead the fans with rhythmic chants and flag waving. Even some Red Bulls supporters came up to occupy the opposing end of the field. All of this created a wonderful atmosphere for the enthusiastic fan’s in attendance, and most importantly the Revolution won an exciting game 4-2. They advance to the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup versus DC United, which will be played Maryland on June 26th. It was great fun riding the MBTA #66 bus home after the game on a bus full of happy Revs fan. The team is now 1-0 on Boston soil. Let’s hope we can do this all again.
Some more thoughts on the game from New England Soccer Today.
* Sorry to insult Foxborough, which I’m sure is a lovely town, but the stadium itself is poorly located with no access by public transportation and even auto access is along one road (US 1) that is several miles drive to the nearest interstate. The NFL has wealthy season ticket holders, corporate interests, and lucrative television deals so they can afford to pretend it is still the 1960’s/70’s and turn their backs on the cities. Professional soccer (like baseball, hockey, and basketball) needs to tie themselves with the resurgence and growth of the urban core as amply demonstrated by the successful soccer specific stadiums in Portland, Vancouver, Montreal, Kansas City, and even Houston. Seattle is even able to make it’s urban NFL stadium a big draw for soccer. The Revolution or a new team in one of the lower divisions would be wise to settle into Boston and take advantage of an untapped market of college students, young professionals, and immigrant communities with time and money to spend.