Cheerleading and American sports seem to go hand in hand. However, you may be unsure if cheerleaders are ever a part of the game when it comes to soccer. It seems fans come for the game when it comes to soccer and don’t expect or even desire a sparkly halftime performance. So, does soccer have cheerleaders at all?
Soccer does not typically have cheerleaders. There have been attempts at bringing cheerleading teams to the sport, but these have been mostly fruitless. Because the history of soccer is different from other American sports, cheerleading does not fit in so well.
But what makes soccer so different from other sports that love their cheer teams, and why are fans so against a spirit squad on the sidelines? How have spirit teams been received in the past, and what has happened to them?
Will soccer ever have cheerleaders?
Cheerleading is an American Tradition
Cheerleaders have become an integral part of many American sports, at levels ranging from novice to professional.
Even high school football and basketball teams are equipped with cheer squads, and the loyal fans go to support both the team on the field and the team cheering them on from the sides with their stunts and dances.
The origin of cheerleading is inextricably tied to the source of American football.
The first recorded pep team was an all-male “yell team” from Princeton University at the first-ever intercollegiate football game, played between Princeton and Rutgers University in 1869. These groups of men would lead organized chants to cheer on their teams to victory.
The trend caught on, and by 1940, over 30,000 colleges and high schools had organized cheerleading teams.
However, these squads looked a bit different from how modern sports fans might describe cheerleading today. The original cheer teams were entirely made up of men, and only in World War II did women join the team, taking over for the men as they served in the war.
In the 1960s, National Football League teams were the first to initiate professional cheerleading squads, and by 1979 the National Basketball League introduced cheer teams as well.
It is no surprise that lovers of these two sports are also lovers of cheer teams. What do the three of them have in common? Football, basketball, and cheerleading are all profoundly American.
Soccer, on the other hand, is a sport with European origins and is by far the most popular sport in Europe to this day. In fact, most countries call the sport football or fútbol, which is the Spanish translation of “football.”
For Americans, “football” brings men in shoulder pads and yellow goalposts to mind, but Europeans only think of the black and white ball being kicked around the field. If you have ever wondered why a soccer ball is black and white, this article I wrote will give you the answer.
Although American sports goers now enjoy soccer, and it seems to be growing in popularity every year, at its roots, soccer is inherently European, and cheerleading is intrinsically American. Therefore, the two have never been bound, and the European sport of soccer has never had cheerleaders.
The Format of a Soccer Game Doesn’t Cater to Cheerleaders
As you are probably aware, a soccer game only has one break during a game. That is the halftime interval. If you’re interested, you can find out more about that here. There isn’t even the option of timeouts during a soccer game. Although there is a good reason for that, and I explain it here.
This lack of breaks during a game means there is little time for cheerleaders to take center stage.
If you compare this to sports such as football and basketball, you can immediately see the difference. These sports have multiple occasions throughout a game when the play stops, and the cheerleaders can entertain the crowd.
Should Soccer Have Cheerleaders or Not?
While some fans are vehemently against the idea of cheerleaders at soccer games, others, in contrast, are keen on the idea of added entertainment at the games. What are the arguments between the two sides?
Cheerleaders Can Be a Distraction
Some fans believe that having a cheer team would be a distraction from the game on the field.
Cheerleading during American football games, with their many starts and stops, allows fans to be entertained during downtime when they might get bored.
Soccer rarely stops, except for halftime. Having cheerleaders on the field could be more annoying than entertaining.
On the other hand, people argue that other sports game staples, such as concession stands, would then be considered distractions as well. They believe that a halftime performance would be an excellent way to keep the crowd engaged and spirited.
Cheerleaders Are for American Sports
Both Americans and Europeans alike associate cheerleaders with American football and basketball and are hesitant to adopt cheerleaders into a game of soccer.
Simply put, it might just feel strange to implement cheer teams into the sport when sports fans so heavily link cheerleading to Friday Night Lights.
However, others argue that this is just a matter of being closed-minded. People should be open to changing their perspectives and allowing for new ways of enjoying sports.
An Attempt at Something New
There have been attempts at integrating cheerleading into soccer across the world.
However, the spirit squads are few and far between. Some squads have even received negative reactions from sports fans, often resulting in an end to the cheer teams.
Cheerleaders in soccer
The reactions to international attempts at integrating cheerleaders into soccer were not entirely negative or ill-received.
The Santos Laguna Guerreritas from Comarca Lagunera in Mexico and Southend United’s Bluebelles from Essex, England, are two cheer teams that fans seemed to enjoy and had solid lifespans.
However, the fans do not come to these games for the cheerleading teams.
Unlike the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, which are a main attraction at the Texas football games and have a fan base of their own, the Guerreritas and the Bluebelles are relatively lowkey.
They don’t draw too much attention away from the games. Their presence online or on social media is minimal. It is clear that soccer fans still come to support their favorite team.
Cheerleaders in American Soccer
In true American fashion, Major League Soccer has shown more serious attempts at integrating cheerleading teams into soccer games.
As of 2018, the MLS had about 20 different cheerleading or dance teams across the United States, and some are relatively successful. Squads like the Houston Dynamo Girls and the New York Red Bulls Cheerleaders are well known among American soccer fans and are enjoyed by their audiences.
Some squads have not had as much luck.
Many of them have not been received positively enough to continue, like the Crewzers of the Columbus Crew soccer team.
Columbus Crew decided to terminate the dance team because fans were looking for a more authentic soccer experience, and cheerleaders don’t fit in that equation.
It is clear that the fans come and stay for the sport rather than the cheer teams.
The Future of Cheering in Soccer
It doesn’t seem likely that there will ever be an exceedingly successful cheer team in soccer, whether in America or internationally.
Even if cheerleading squads last more than a few years, soccer fans seem to care more about the sport than the flashy performances or cheering.
Overall, the public seems to have agreed that cheerleading and soccer just don’t mix.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Soccer is a game full of excitement, skill, and entertainment. To find out more about this sport, I recommend looking at one of these other posts I’ve written.