The term ‘united’ is an oft-used moniker in the world of soccer. Manchester United, Newcastle United, D.C. United – you get the picture. Teams use the term ‘united’ for many reasons: for example, the merging of several smaller clubs into one big club or conveying unity amongst supporters in a certain locale.
Unity amongst supporters in a certain locale — let’s focus on that one. Birmingham has been a pretty tough place to start a sports franchise. Give me one successful team and I will throw a dozen failed franchises back at you. Tell me why you think Birmingham is poised to support a professional team and someone else will give me many more reasons that there isn’t a chance in hell a pro sports franchise can survive this complex region of disparate municipalities.
But research would tell you that Birmingham has a great potential market for a soccer franchise. There is a healthy American Outlaws chapter with some of the greatest, most passionate USMNT supporters that you could find anywhere. UAB has a formidable soccer program that is perennially competing for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Youth soccer participation is an at all-time high. Clubs like North Star, Vestavia Hills Soccer Club, Birmingham United Soccer Association, Trussville Soccer, Hoover Soccer, Briarwood – these clubs are fostering the next generation of soccer players and life-long fans of the sport.
Yet despite all the good things going for the game of soccer in the Magic City, something is missing. You see, Birmingham is full of soccer fans; it’s just not full of fans of Birmingham soccer… yet.
A rising tide lifts all boats.
What would happen if the local A.O. chapter, the UAB, Birmingham Southern, and Samford Soccer programs, and all of the youth clubs around the city came together in support for a local Birmingham professional club – would the club be successful? The answer is a resounding ‘YES’ – It would have a much better chance of making it if the local soccer infrastructure united.
Think about how the local A.O. chapter, the UAB, Birmingham Southern, and Samford Soccer programs, and all of the youth clubs in the city could benefit if there was a successful professional club in Birmingham – would they? Without a doubt. A successful professional soccer franchise in Birmingham would generate more interest in the game, thus increasing the membership of local supporter groups and participation in youth organizations. It would be good business for everyone.
Recently, the term ‘united’ has lost a little luster in the soccer world, particularly in the U.S. It has become a cliché – an overused nickname selected by slick marketers to sell tickets and t-shirts. Branding and the almighty dollar, that’s the meaning behind ‘united’ these days. See Atlanta United FC or Minnesota United.
But the term ‘united’ at its roots means something more in a historical context. It represents the idea that people come together for a cause, for a team. We don’t have a team called ‘united’ in Birmingham. We have the Birmingham Hammers. But it is high time that the soccer community in this city unite in their support for this club. Otherwise, we will look back on this time, this opportunity and think about what might have been.