The Empire Supporters Club, or ESC, is the oldest supporters club in Major League Soccer and the oldest and largest supporters club dedicated to Red Bull New York of Major League Soccer. | File Image: DailyHarrison.com
One of the most intriguing aspects of soccer from around the world is the unprecedented support that fans put behind their teams. To a large extent, what is happening in the stands is a spectacle itself and often nearly as exciting as the action on the field.
Singing, jumping, flags, smoke bombs, flares, etc all bring a special atmosphere to games that typical American sports lack. Various MLS supporters groups have been attempting to replicate the passion and intensity of European and Latin American fan groups in America.
One of the most notable is New York's fan group, the Empire Supporters Club.
The ESC was founded in 1995 (before the league itself) in anticipation of New York/New Jersey's new professional soccer team. The team was rumored at the time to be called the Empire Soccer Club, and although that didn't pan out the name stuck for the supporters group. Through the years the ESC has been one of MLS's most passionate supporters group, sticking with their team through slumps in play, as well as a corporate buy out and name change that turned many off.
To call the ESC the United States largest supporters group would be a stretch (although the new stadium will boost attendance) but it is most certainly the most inventive. The ESC has a song list as diverse and interesting as its members, singing songs in multiple languages (predominantly English and Spanish). The group is famous for creating extremely witty chants/songs on the spot, vilifying rival teams and supporters with ease.
The club was started in 1995 by members of the New York City Firm (*NYCF* the former supporters group for the defunct A-League team the New York Centaurs). Its name reflects the soccer club's original name, Empire Soccer Club, as the supporters' club inception came before the MetroStars name. | Image by Jen Muller
Club members have traveled in number as far as LA to support their team, and with the inclusion of Toronto and Philadelphia into the league, road trips are a regular occurrence. Many members (although not all due to the extreme diversity of the group) are ardent US Men's National Team supporters, and have gone up and down the East Coast (as well as to a few World Cups) to support the Yanks.
Although not everyone is a natural born footie fanatic, The ESC is worth a shot for any fan of the game. When a fan is actively supporting their team and creating a stronger home field advantage, they develop a much stronger sense of pride and belonging to both the team and the group. Replicating one of the best parts of the foreign soccer experience makes games both more meaningful and more exciting.
Anyone who loves the team, or just the sport for that matter, is highly recommended to check out empiresupportersclub.com for more information, or just head straight to section 101 of Red Bull Arena to see what the experience is truly like.
Dave Braneck is a blogger and an all around soccer fan who represents North Jersey to the fullest and contributes to DailyHarrison.com