With everything from recreation to school to club teams, our community has thousands of soccer players.
Today, we'll find out how many soccer fans there are.
At 5 o'clock this afternoon (June 5), the Augusta FireBall United Soccer Club plays its first home game at Patriots Park, taking on the Carolina Dynamo. The United Soccer League Premier Developmental League team is a minor-league franchise of major-league soccer, and it's the first professional sports team to call Columbia County home.
Our home team is already on an undefeated streak, too; the FireBall won their first game May 20, defeating the New Orleans Shell Shockers 1-0.
So, they're on a roll, and they're rolling into Columbia County's Patriots Park this afternoon. But will the fans stroll into the new bleachers set up just for these games?
Team owner Alec Papadakis won't make attendance predictions, which is probably wise given all the unknowns about the reception the sport could receive. But he's right on target when he tells News-Times reporter Jonathan Heeter, "We will have to prove ourselves to the community and let them decide if this is a product they want to support."
Papadakis, along with FireBall general manager Brad Usry, are doing their part, making a five-year commitment to playing in Columbia County. It's up to the fans to ratify that confidence by coming through the gate.
Even with a high number of participants, soccer still struggles in Columbia County as a spectator sport, lagging far behind the traditional big three - football, baseball and basketball. The FireBall could be just what the county needs to provide a spark that turns soccer players into futbol fans.
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