Could NOLA become the Soccer Capital of the South?

United States soccer has always been characterized by the ever growing fan support it has received. The biggest example of this is when the United States played host to the 1994 World Cup, which saw the USMNT make it to the knockout round while losing to Brazil 1-0. Another big example is the wonder-goal scored by John Anthony Brooks that drove many of our ever-growing USMNT fans to jubilation as we saw our Ghanaian rivals off in the 2014 World Cup. Both of these moments had a huge commonality.

The commonality is that we, as Americans, came together as one to create this narrative of a nation that is not traditionally a soccer nation, but could still compete against the world’s elite. That exact narrative is what drives New Orleans soccer. We’re a city that is not traditionally a soccer city, but with our metropolitan status, and with growing youth participation in soccer, we emphasize the warming American attitude towards soccer.

We also could benefit from soccer more so than any other city in the South considering that, unlike big cities southern cities, such as Houston and Atlanta with pro-soccer teams, we only have a Semi-pro team, the Jesters. With the chance for an increase in soccer’s popularity to due to a potential World Cup bid, we may be able to see the growth of the Jesters soccer. It may even became a future MLS Expansion team, and help soccer gain an even larger foothold in the United States.

With that said, 2026 World Cup could very well be used to further enhance the growth of soccer in New Orleans as we saw with New York in the 1990s prior the World Cup, when they were where we were at today. Now look at New York, they’re on the brink of a soccer empire, with their pro-soccer team, New York City Football Club, being in second in the MLS Eastern Conference while also clinching an MLS playoff spot; quite an achievement for a city which 30 years ago only had did not even have a professional soccer team. I see New Orleans as the modern New York City. We’re a metropolitan city that has a lot of untapped soccer potential. We have a spark with our growing soccer, and immigrant population, (56% of the Latino and African American population in the United States state they follow soccer, even in a year where there is not a world cup. Also, 34% of Latinos make up the viewer base for the MLS). We just need something to ignite it, and I believe that the 2026 World Cup is the light we need to ignite that spark into a flame, and turn New Orleans into a soccer city that will be formidable to every other city in the South. We could very well become the new Soccer Capital of the South.