By Matt Liberman Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News) — While the rest of Armory Square (Syracuse) remained quiet and desolate, cheers from Wolff’s Biergarten echoed through the cold, morning air.
Syracuse residents sat, tucked inside, on their couches, waiting for football to begin. Yet, a small group of soccer fans ventured downtown to watch the Premier League’s game of the week, Arsenal vs. Everton.
“You know these are the real fans,” said Jacob Marcus, a Syracuse student and frequent visitor to Wolff’s Biergarten.
Wolff’s Biergarten serves as the host for one of the country’s fastest growing groups: soccer fans. No sport is accumulating more fans in the U.S. than soccer, and the group of fans visiting the bar on Sunday represent how that growth is taking shape in Syracuse. Rather than getting ready for a day of NFL action, they chose to go watch soccer.
Nearly everyone in the bar on Sunday was an Arsenal fan, one the English Premier League’s top clubs. Wolff’s Biergarten was originally home to the Syracuse Gooners, a fan club of Arsenal fans in the city. But the bar welcomes all fans, not just Arsenal.
“There are some Chelsea fans, some Man U (Manchester United) fans,” Marcus said. “It gives it a different feel… it’s a lot more fun with a diverse group of fans.”
Overall the number of soccer fans that the bar sees has grown tremendously in recent years, multiple bartenders said. Soccer is now the favorite sport of seven percent of all Americans, ranking fourth behind football, basketball, and baseball respectively, according to a Gallup poll. According to the same poll, no sport aside from the “Big Three,” as it has been labeled, has been above seven percent since 1997. And soccer is only growing.
“It’s so awesome to see how much the sport has grown in Syracuse,” one bartender said. “We see a bunch of the same faces every week but always new ones too.”
Wolff’s Biergarten shows every Premier League game as well as select games in other leagues around the world such as La Liga (Spain) and Serie A (Italy), and the UEFA Champions League. But among the major leagues around the world, the Premier League attracts the most fans, the bartenders said, even on days when games conflict with football, as they do every Saturday and Sunday.
“I started coming here junior year,” the now-senior Marcus said. “It’s just great to see how many fans there are in the city.”