America’s diversity informs U.S. soccer, World Cup traditions

Woman and man draped in U.S. flag and flag colors, man wearing cheesehead (State Dept./Paul Wulfsberg)
U.S. diplomats Mariya Ilyas and Joshua Baker, seen cheering on the U.S. against England November 25, are among the many U.S. fans attending the World Cup in Qatar. (State Dept./Paul Wulfsberg)

Tens of thousands of U.S. soccer fans traveled to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. But the ways they celebrate the world’s most popular sport — even what team they cheered — are as diverse as their home country, fans said.

“We met Iranian fans last night from Ohio. We met Mexican fans from Texas,” Chase Kania of Seattle told ShareAmerica November 29 in Doha. “That all speaks to our unique culture.”

Headshot of smiling woman wearing large blue square-framed glasses (State Dept./Paul Wulfsberg)
Tramaine Curtis, an American teaching in Qatar, was merely a casual soccer fan until the World Cup. (State Dept./Paul Wulfsberg)

Kania is one of the estimated 50,000 soccer fans from the United States attending the World Cup held November 20–December 18 in Doha. As of November 27, U.S. fans represented 7% of visitors for the tournament, the third-largest contingent behind Saudi Arabia and India, according to news reports.

While soccer’s popularity in the United States has soared in recent decades, U.S. fans say the sport’s U.S. culture draws heavily from traditions of other countries where soccer — or football — has long been a leading national pastime.

“We’ll have a chant that is a German, northern European chant, and we’ll have a chant that is South American,” Kania said of soccer fans in his hometown of Seattle. But “we’re doing it in a uniquely American way.”

To Kania, embracing, even borrowing, traditions from other countries’ fans feels natural. Since the U.S. is known as a melting pot because of its mix of cultures, Kania says, “I would expect our soccer culture to be no different.”

Shawn Allen, who credits growing up in a largely Hispanic Southern California neighborhood with fostering his love of soccer, says some U.S. soccer fans, as relative newcomers to the sport, are more reserved than their international counterparts.

“We probably have a ways to go in terms of being good fans for soccer,” Allen told ShareAmerica November 29, riding a bus to the U.S. match against Iran with boisterous fans of the Iranian team. “We could work on our chants.”

Man holding American flag while wrapped in another American flag (Courtesy of Mariya Ilyas)
Ilyas Hussain, of Virginia, flew with family to Qatar to cheer on the United States at the World Cup. (Courtesy of Mariya Ilyas)

The U.S. team, whose players are as diverse as their fans, defeated Iran 1–0 before being eliminated in the round of 16 in a 3–1 loss to the Netherlands on December 3.

The U.S. men’s national soccer team (USMNT) includes forward Jesús Ferreira, born in Colombia, and defender Sergiño Dest, born in the Netherlands, as well as players whose families hail from countries including El Salvador, Japan and Liberia. “The diversity of this team is the diversity of America,” USMNT Coach Gregg Berhalter told the Washington Post.

While U.S. fans in Doha take pride in U.S. soccer’s diverse influences, the youth of the men’s national team makes Americans optimistic about future tournaments. The U.S. team is the second-youngest of 32 teams at the World Cup, according to news reports.

U.S. soccer fan wearing red, white and blue with face painted holding American flag (State Dept./Paul Wulfsberg)
Tyler Kirchner, a former high school soccer coach from Nebraska, and other U.S. fans say the U.S. men’s team could make a run for a World Cup Championship in 2026. (State Dept./Paul Wulfsberg)

“We’re going to make a good run this year, but in four years it will be really exciting,” said Tyler Kirchner, a former soccer coach from Nebraska, now serving in the U.S. military.

Kania also feels good about the U.S. teams prospects in 2026 when the United States, Canada and Mexico jointly host the World Cup. “Were making up ground very fast,” Kania said. “When we host the World Cup … we’re winning it.”