In anticipation of next month’s National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s College Cup, UCSB soccer aficionados have been storming into Harder Stadium in record numbers.
UCSB boasts an average of 6,620 fans per game this season — almost 2,000 more fans than last year — setting a new standard for college soccer. Most notably, UCSB attracted the largest soccer crowd to ever assemble at a college stadium on Sept. 24 when it battled the UCLA Bruins, drawing more fans — 15,896 to be precise — than the three Major League soccer matches that were held the same weekend.
To add to their record-breaking season, the Gauchos won the Big West Tournament championship for their first time last Saturday, beating the Cal State Fullerton Titans 3-1.
Gaucho senior defender Michael Boxall said the record-breaking turnouts have inspired the team to step up its game.
“The Loco crowd and atmosphere that they provide is second to none, and it’s like you can just find an extra gear whenever you’re playing in front of them,” Boxall said. “It’s largely because it’s your peers in the crowd watching you, supporting you and you’re not only playing for yourself, your teammates and your coaches, but you understand that you represent your school and your community.”
While the Sept. 24 match was the most highly attended on-campus event in the last 25 years, Boxall said UCSB is used to this caliber of support.
“I’ve been so fortunate to have been in Santa Barbara, which has been a bubble with a great interest in soccer for as long as I’ve been here,” Boxall said.
R Lin, a third-year feminist studies and political science major, said the increase in attendance may be an indication of improved team performance.
“It’s totally sweet to have more and more Gauchos at every game because our team is really fucking talented and they deserve the support,” Lin said. “Watching the team play at Cal Poly was a ton of fun because our small group of Gauchos was so loud and so loco that we were able to overshadow the Poly fans on their own turf.”
To accommodate an influx of fans at Harder Stadium, UCSB ordered a custom-built mobile kitchen, which debuted on Oct. 2, to serve as a concessions booth.
Nick Marsh, a third-year philosophy major, said the wide availability of food may induce a more family-friendly atmosphere.
“It could lead to families making a day out of it,” Marsh said. “It would also lead to a greater sense of community, because students may feel like they are more a part of the community when they see locals at the games.”
However, Boxall said the new environment may deter UCSB students from attending future games.
“It does bother me that there seems to be an enforcer who has tamed the Locos for the sake of families,” Boxall said. “I’m all for a safe and friendly environment but there’s a way to do that without being a huge dick about it and without taking the fun factor away from it, which is what has brought students out in such large numbers and led UCSB to be the frontrunner in the nation for attendance for years now.”