The win that put the USMNT in the Copa America 2024

Almost 50,000 fans cheered on the USMNT in Arlington, proving that the passion for soccer is more alive than ever in the United States
United States v Bolivia - CONMEBOL Copa America USA 2024
United States v Bolivia - CONMEBOL Copa America USA 2024 / Omar Vega/GettyImages

Those who thought that passion for soccer in the United States was the stuff of Mexican soap operas were slapped in the face when the USMNT faced Bolivia in the opening game of the 2024 Copa America in Arlington, Texas. The 2-0 win was important, of course, but the real spectacle was in the stands.

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With almost 50,000 fans in attendance, the atmosphere in Arlington was that of a championship final, something that a few years ago would have been unthinkable for a soccer match in the USA. The issue wasn't just the number of fans, but the intensity with which they supported the team. Striker Tim Weah described it perfectly: "Dallas was incredible. The atmosphere was great, very good."

And to think there were doubts about how much of an advantage the team would have playing at home. Bolivia, although not the favorite of Bolivian-Americans like Mexico or Colombia, proved to be a worthy opponent. However, the passion of the USMNT fans dispelled any uncertainty from the opening whistle.

This match was more than a game, it was a sign that soccer is gaining ground in the United States, especially in regions that were previously dominated by other sports. And it's in Atlanta, where the team will play Panama, that this change is even more evident. Since Atlanta United joined the MLS in 2017, the city has become a veritable bastion of soccer, with attendance averages that are the envy of any other team in the league.

Surprisingly, the USMNT has only played in Atlanta three times in its century-long history. The last time was almost a decade ago, and it doesn't bring back fond memories. But now, with a new generation of passionate fans and a stadium ready to explode with excitement, history is about to change. Goalkeeper Matt Turner commented on the energy he has felt since arriving in the city: "You feel the energy of the city in relation to soccer, and that's a very good feeling when you arrive to play such an important match."

And this energy isn't just for the games. The US Soccer Federation is building a state-of-the-art headquarters near Atlanta, a project that should be completed before the 2026 World Cup. Tim Weah, who plays for Juventus, is even considering putting down roots in the city. "Atlanta is a progressive city. I think the training center will be in a perfect location for all of us."

With a growing infrastructure and an increasingly dedicated fan base, the future of American soccer looks bright. The win against Bolivia and the warm reception in Arlington are just the beginning. If the Americans advance in the Copa America, they will face opponents like Brazil or Colombia, countries with massive support in the US. But one thing is certain: the passion of the American fans is up to the challenge.

And that passion is palpable. Turner put it well: "The people here really care. They know the players. And that's all very nice. You don't get random questions in the elevator about 'What college do you play for? What sport do you play?' People are aware of what's going on."

In a world where soccer is increasingly globalized, the USMNT's victory against Bolivia is not just a victory on the field. It's a victory for the growth of the sport in a country where the ball is finally starting to roll in full force.