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U.S. Soccer Fans Now 'Free Agents' For FIFA World Cup 2018

Jun 19, 2018
Originally published on June 19, 2018 11:57 am

The first few matches of this year’s FIFA World Cup have been seismic.

Mexico literally shook the ground after beating Germany –a highlight for some fans like Susan Dirgins-Friend, who's from California and lives in Davie.

"Though I am not Latin, Mexico, Mexicans and Mexican Americans are close to my heart," she says.

Then all the draws: Spain tied with Portugal; Iceland tied with Argentina – much to the chagrin of Messi fans; even Brazil couldn’t shake Switzerland with a 1-1 finish on Sunday.

Outcomes aside, U.S. fans are cheering without the Richter-scale-inducing stress. They’re “free agents” since the U.S. team didn’t qualify. (At least the U.S. has the chance to host with Canada and Mexico in 2026.)

WLRN asked listeners in South Florida how their soccer allegiances have changed and where they'll be watching the games. Here are some of their responses:

"I'm going to be rooting for Iceland," said Matt Bourie of Hollywood. "It's the smallest nation to ever qualify, and their coach is also a part-time dentist."

Alyssa Keene of Miami Lakes is one of several fans welcoming first-time countries.

"Who doesn’t love an underdog story?!” Keene, who is Panamanian, wrote via text message. 

This year is the first time Panama will play in the World Cup. Keene flew there to watch the first game against Belgium on Monday. 

While Cristal Balaban was born here, her roots are in Colombia, so that's who she'll be cheering for. She plans to watch the games at local sports bars, wearing the Colombian jersey and her "lucky" Colombian earrings.

Fabrizio Rivera, who's rooting for Iceland, told WLRN that he’ll be adjusting the schedule of his family’s watch parties to catch the games live.

"We will be making breakfast and will start the party early with mimosas," says Rivera, who lives in Kendall. "We’re expecting more than 45 people for each of the games."

The time in Russia means games will be airing earlier on the East Coast. 

"Many games are during work hours so we will have screens at work to watch them," said Michelle Rubio of Miami, who works in marketing.

Others are also watching at work. Kazi Sofian, who works as a product specialist at Lexus, says she'll most likely be at the office when the games are on. She'll watch from her desk or just catch the highlights after work.

Sofian says will root for Germany or Portugal (the team her favorite player, forward Cristiano Ronaldo, plays for). 

There was at least one person who didn't know know the U.S. wasn't in the running anymore. After Shane Dial heard the news, he told WLRN that he'll go for team England.

Good news for him: they won 2-1 against Tunisia on Monday. 

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