By Greg Mockos

This is part four of a five part series about different styles of supporter culture from around the world.  If you missed them, get caught up with part one on the English style, part two on the Continental European style and part three on the South American style.

The North American supporter style is fusion of the three traditional supporter styles: the English, the continental European, and the South American. These three style can be summarized as follows.

The English style is mainly distinguished by: 

  •  Periodic organic chants that are not continuous
  •  Lack of capos
  •  Lack of tifos
  •  Massive away support

The Continental European style is mainly distinguished by:

  • Nonstop organized chants and songs
  • Massive tifos
  • Organized capos and drums
  • Solid away support
  • Backed by a complex organization of individuals

The South American style is mainly distinguished by:

  • Nonstop chants that last almost entire matches
  • Tightly knit communities behind the scenes
  • Cacophony of sounds emanating from a multitude of instruments
  • Large tifos displayed constantly

I am sure that I am missing some aspects of each style and the above list is an oversimplification, but it does give you an idea of what each style brings. The North American supporter style, which has the benefit of being new to the scene, has been able to learn from each style and pull certain aspects from each to create a new style of support.

The North American style of support has incorporated the intermittent organic chants from the English style; the tifo, the capoing, and the organization of the continental European style; and the exhaustive nonstop chanting and tightly knit communities in the South American style. This blend of supporter styles provides the clubs of Major League Soccer (MLS) with a unique feel to matches and supporter sections. You see exceptional tifo and large flags being displayed in Seattle by the ECS, constant barra-style chanting from La Barra Real in Salt Lake, to organically started chants by Section 8 in Chicago. The two aspects of the North American supporter style that almost every MLS supporter group has in common are the tightly knit communities and the organizational structure that manages the respective groups from behind the scenes. The degree of complexity of the organization of the groups varies greatly and will continue to do so as the league grows.

Each of the groups in MLS may lean more or less towards one style. The direction each group gravitates towards is dictated by influence of local culture on the groups and their members. Typically the groups do not make a choice. As I mentioned in a previous article, support, is defined as the collection of actions that supporters do on any given game day as part of an organized group of individuals. How supporter groups in MLS enact each one of those actions is greatly determined by the local culture. Rarely does one decide what style to follow and impose this on a group. The group and its cultural makeup will ultimately decide what style the group follows. Thanks to this phenomenon, the world of supporter culture in North America is highly varied.