Local News

More and More, Triangle Fans Drink from World Cup

Posted June 14, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— There have been no riots or street brawls among Triangle soccer fans, but some people in the Trianglearegoing soccer crazy. Fans of all ages have been glued to their televisions, watching World Cup action. Still others are hitting the field for some fun of their own.

With the end of the NBA Finals a different kind of roundball is taking center stage -- World Cup Soccer. Monday's big match, a contest between the U.S. and Germany, is giving many the opportunity to watch a game that no diehard soccer fan would want to miss, in spite of the fact it's taking place on a weekday.

Soccer fans young and old packed a company cafeteria to watch the U.S. take on Germany in its first World Cup match of 1998.

"Well, you get to see the best players in the world and most of those players don't get to play together as much because they're on their own club teams," says soccer fan Jason Thomas.

The world's most popular sport has gained some serious forward momentum in this country, and the recent success of the U.S. team isn't the only reason.

"I think that starting from the youth level more and more people are getting involved," says Betsy McKee.

The World Cup also means a world of business for Eurosport of Hillsborough. The world's largest soccer mail order company says its hottest items right now are the uniforms worn by World Cup teams.

"The standard ones are the big south American teams, you have Brazil, Argentina, then you've got the U.S. has a huge following," says Adam Jones, advertising director for Eurosport.

The uniforms are selling to mostly soccer-loving kids who would like to someday play in the World Cup themselves.

"It used to be a game you used to play during recess, but now i mean there's leagues, and it's a big deal," says soccer player Eric Rice.

Next season the Capital Area Soccer League will have 13,000 players. That's up 100 percent from five years ago. Nationally, a recent survey shows there are 17 million players aged six and up. That's up five percent since 1990, a much smaller increase than here in the Triangle.

Another event could make soccer an even bigger sport here. Next year, the Women's World Cup will be played in the U.S. for the first time.