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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Few sports are as popular as soccer is in South Florida, and with a massive international student body, one would imagine FIU to have packed stands for soccer games. Indeed, this is not the case. Despite FIU having won the NCAA DII championship twice and having made the DI championship game once before (both achievements for the men’s team), added with numerous conference titles for the men’s and women’s teams, getting fans to the games is often a task that is not easy. Alas, there isn’t much comfort at the game for those in attendance, and no doubt this plays a big part in the issues FIU soccer faces.
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With the exception of a trailer that carries warmed-up burgers, hot dogs, and cookies or candy akin to that you can get out of a vending machine, there is nothing as far as food goes at FIU soccer games. Much like FIU tennis or softball, you have to walk into the middle of campus for an actual restaurant.
Soccer at FIU can have a buzz in the air, provided the team is doing well. Otherwise, moans and groans from the few fans in attendance flow from the rickety grandstands.
Speaking of which, the seating at FIU soccer is atrocious. The stands and what they try to pass as a "press box" have been there since the start, and it shows. Wooden bleachers stand, but sway in the wind and creak with every step you take towards your seat. The entrance is merely a small chain link fence gate that opens up to the property. Even the ticket takers are set up with a fold-up table, a chair, and a small pop-up tent/cover. It feels more like a high school game than a Conference USA soccer match.
FIU's athletic fields are on campus, which makes it convenient to attend. Unlike stadiums in the middle of a city, there is a sense of security on campus, as you are seemingly separated from the rest of the neighborhood around it. However, there still remains the issue of how that surrounding neighborhood looks, and it isn't exactly the best in Miami.
Sweetwater is a town known for political corruption and severe street flooding during hurricanes, and not much else. Put a college campus in the middle of it, and you have FIU.
The campus itself is growing by the day, with new construction all over the place and new buildings popping up. FIU Soccer Stadium is on the far west end of the campus, sandwiched between the US Century Bank Arena and FIU's baseball stadium, with FIU's tennis courts and softball field just across the street. There are also very few hotels immediately nearby, making the idea of an overnight trip hard if you wanted to stay close to the action.
Much like FIU's other sports, or any professional Miami sports team for that matter, getting fans to show up to games is like pulling teeth at times. Unless the team has a winning record, there isn't much as far as a loyal fan base to be seen. This can make the games seem unexciting, despite the stellar play on the field. The fans who do show up are often fellow FIU athletes or friends or family of the players on the field. This is hardly what one can consider a raucous, football-thirsty crowd.
Getting to any stadium at FIU isn't too hard, but traffic can sometimes be problematic. As is typical in Miami, traffic backs up right around the exits nearest FIU's campus on a daily basis. If you find yourself hoping to get to a game and rush hour happens to have lasted a little longer on that day, you may be in for a late arrival.
Thankfully, you don't have to invest much into getting to a game. Tickets are inexpensive, and pre-season or off-season friendlies are often free to whomever shows up to the game. Parking is free...if you can find it. There is no official parking lot for the stadium, so you are relegated to either parking in the parking garage that is a five-minute walk away, or the nearby parking lot by the tennis courts and the SAC, which is at times patrolled by ticket-loving FIU police, should you not have a campus decal.
The only extra FIU soccer does at times is have a team autograph session after the game for fans. Players come out and sign the team schedule poster for anyone in attendance, and will pose for photos, often with the youth players who come to watch the games on field trips.
FIU's soccer teams are among the most historically and consistently successful teams on campus. However, the stadium in which they play desperately needs a facelift, and finding something to eat once there is a hunt that will inevitably end in disappointment. So unless you have a reason to go to the game to watch a family member or friend, or are a hardcore FIU soccer fan, most fans are likely to skip attending a Golden Panthers match on campus.
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