The Tampa Bay soccer team wants to see more Bulls at matches
Not many schools can call a professional soccer team its neighbor, but USF St. Petersburg can.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies kicked off their 2016 season on April 2 with nearly 6,000 fans packed into Al Lang Stadium just north of campus.
Even though the sport’s popularity is growing in the area, however, there seems to be a missing link between the team and the potential fan base at the university.
Blame it on a lack of awareness or on students’ busy schedules, but the Rowdies have made one thing clear: They would like it to change.
The Rowdies have been around since 1975. They play in the North American Soccer League, the second-tier league below Major League Soccer.
Though the team is not in the primary U.S. soccer league, the Rowdies boast a rich history.
“This club is a historic club,” said Rowdies forward Tom Heinemann. “A club with a great amount of tradition, a club with a great amount of pride, a club that wants to win and wants to win right now. To be connected to a club that has supporters who have those ambitions and those desires is special.”
Game days are filled with tradition, and the seats at Al Lang Stadium are filled with fans who exhibit almost as much passion as the players.
However, there has been a noticeable group missing from this crowd – USFSP students. While some students attend a match now and then, widespread support for the team is missing.
According to Heinemann, there are many reasons for students to immerse themselves in the action.
“It’s a great night out; it’s a great weekend experience for students to come and be a part of,” Heinemann said. “We could use some of their support; we could use some more voices. The more support we have, the better. Our fans are unbelievable, and to be able to add to that would be great for us.”
The desire for USFSP support spans across Rowdies players – not only for the sake of the team, but also for the sake of soccer itself.
“I think there is a little bit of a disconnect – I don’t know why – but I think it (more student support) would be awesome,” said Rowdies defender Zac Portillos. “Obviously, we want as many fans as we can, but also I think it’d be cool for soccer to grow in general for USF. I think if they were involved more with the Rowdies, then soccer would grow.”
The coaching staff also sees the need for increased involvement from the Rowdies’ neighbors at USFSP.
“It’d be great if more students could come out to support us because we’re the local team, and I’m a big believer in supporting your local team,” said head coach Stuart Campbell. “It would be fantastic if they could come out in big numbers and get behind us. The bigger the crowd, the better the atmosphere.”
And why shouldn’t students come out? With the field only steps away from campus and ticket prices only $10 for students, few other activities are as accessible. Beyond convenience, however, backing the Rowdies can do more than just entertain you for the night: it can get you hooked on the soccer experience.
“I guarantee that if you haven’t been yet and you come once, you’ll love it and you’ll definitely come back,” said Campbell.
As part of the Bulls in the Burg discount program, USFSP students can buy Rowdies tickets for $10.
To purchase tickets: visit the box office at Al Lang Stadium during the week or call the organization’s sale office at (727) 222-2000. Make sure to have a valid student ID ready.