Soccer Stadium Etiquette: An open letter to first-time fans

USA TODAY Sports

This is a general guideline of what is common or expected when you attend a live MLS event in a soccer stadium, directed specifically at Americans who are just now realizing there are professional soccer teams in the US. It is written as a letter to new RSL fans.

Dear first time fan,

Welcome to the best addiction you'll ever have. Soccer is something that gets in your blood. Your first game you might think, well that was more fun than I thought but it isn't (insert current favorite sport here). Then maybe you start going to a few games, maybe just the firework games or games your friends are also going to. Pretty soon 1-2 games a year becomes 15-16 and before you know it you are a season ticket holder, or STH for short.

Here in Utah the RSL STH are called the Pride. There are members of the Pride that are all at different levels, some are super fans, some are fans and some are seeing soccer for their first times. That is OK that not everyone is a super fan. It is even OK to be brand new to the game of soccer. You will almost certainly be able to find a super fan near you. It will be the guy or girl who is watching the pitch the entire 90 minutes, yelling at the side-judge/field ref, and living and dying with every pass, tackle and shot. You will generally know them when you see them. They typically have watched soccer for a lot of years and know all of the intricacies of the game. If you have a question they will generally explain it to you.

What you should not do is tell the super fan what to do. They have been typically following soccer for years and years and years. They know soccer culture and they will generally police themselves and those around them. They probably directly or indirectly are the reason you ended up coming. Most super fans have invited nearly everyone they know to come out to a game and help people get tickets. I speak from personal experience.

If you don't like someone standing in front of you don't get close seats. It is definitely the expectation that on corner kicks for the home team you stand. On goal scoring chances it is generally 50-50 that you stand (but you shouldn't tell the fans to sit down rather than support the team just because you don't want to stand). Certainly on goals you should explode out of your seat and jump up and down (if possible).

Would you go to a football game and tell people to sit down when they celebrate a touchdown? Would you go to a basketball game and tell people to sit down when the hometown hero has a game winning steal and is running the length of the court? Would you tell a baseball fan to sit down when their favorite pitcher is going to take the mound? No, no, no. So don't tell people to sit down when you go to a sport you don't yet understand.

In most soccer countries people literally get to the game beforehand, sometimes hours before, and stand the ENTIRE match. That is the normal. At the RioT, there are sections that do that (section 35 [ed. note: section 34 has big pockets of that, too, as do a few others], 26, and 8-11 come to mind) for every game. In other sections that is generally reserved for the biggest of matches (as a point of reference think of Jazz games and standing for the whole 4th quarter). So yeah, in general random games in the summer you shouldn't necessarily expect to have to stand a lot to see the field when you sit in other sections, but you should go in knowing it is certainly something that might happen.

Other RSL specifics, when goals are scored everyone sings the Believe anthem. The words are right on the boards, it's a simple enough tune anyone can sing it. You just do it whether or not you are a singer. At the start of the game and whenever subs come in the announcer will say the player's first name and then everyone yells out the last name loud enough that no one can hear the announcer saying it (again, their name shows up on the board). If you are sitting in the family sections then you are not supposed to use language that would not be appropriate near young conservative families. RSL is a family from the owners to the coaches to the players to the fans to the front office, we treat each other as such. Be on time...for example a while back RSL posted this video.

We are glad you came out and hope you keep coming out but seriously, the culture is what it is. It took the super fans a long time and a lot of effort to make the culture here in SLC what it is and while it's great you bought a ticket, most super fans have bought literally hundreds and hundreds of tickets and spent countless hours building this thing. It has been a long process and we take it seriously. There is a reason that the home field advantage is so great and until you understand that better, just go with the flow. You are a guest; we will welcome you with open arms but don't try and change everything. You didn't purchase a ticket to Wimbledon, you're at a soccer match for heaven's sakes. It will get loud, you will have to stand up, and there will be things you don't understand on your first several times. You will eventually understand it if you keep coming out. It does take some time to learn. Hope this helps.

Regards,

RSL Soccer Nation

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