The popularity and influence of soccer worldwide have finally garnered attention in the United States.
In fact, the USA women’s soccer team’s recent run to the World Cup Finals against Japan was the second-highest rated women’s soccer match on U.S. television.
With the recent success the USC women’s soccer team has had over the last four years, which includes its first NCAA title in 2007 and four straight appearances in the NCAA tournament since coach Ali Khosroshahin came to USC, it’s had more success than the football program in the past couple years.
No one at USC is saying soccer has replaced football.
In fact, it’s “fútbol” that has replaced “soccer.”
That’s not a misspelling.
The USC women’s soccer team has re-dubbed itself “USC fútbol,” as just one of countless marketing ideas the USC athletic department has implemented to increase interest in the program, which averaged just 369 fans per game at McAlister Field last season.
The idea is the brainchild of USC coach Ali Khosroshahin, who for years has run a “’SC Fútbol Academy” summer camp program.
“[Fútbol] is the word used to describe the sport in the majority of the world,” Khosroshahin said. “It’s really a name recognition thing more than anything else.”
The idea has garnered tremendous support from everyone in the athletic department.
Khosroshahin said he first took the idea to Senior Associate Athletic Director Steve Lopes. Together they took the idea to marketing, and from there to Athletic Director Pat Haden, all of whom Khosroshahin said were “fired up” about it.
“With our location here in Los Angeles, it’s vital to try to find a way to fit into this community,” Associate Athletic Director of Marketing Craig Kelley said. “Some of the people here feel somewhat disconnected from us, and this is a sort of way to bring them in.”
Khosroshahin also said he hopes the name change will help the community around USC relate to the sport.
“We have an international community here,” Khosroshahin said. “So we thought, ‘This is the world’s sport, let’s put the international moniker on it as well and see if we can get our international alumni and students to come out.’”
Nearly 1,500 fans turned out to watch USC take on Stanford at the Coliseum last season, and the program later broke the NCAA attendance record for a regular season women’s soccer matchup with a turnout of 8,527 at the Coliseum against UCLA. Otherwise, the highest attendance of the season was 603.
“I’d like to hope that with the logo and referring to ourselves as ‘fútbol’ that we can pull that international interest that we have on campus,” Khosroshahin said. “It’s something you can get into. We want to get people to come out, and if they come out and see us once, it might intrigue them enough to come back.”
This sentiment also was echoed by the marketing department.
“Our premise from a marketing strategy is to really hone in on four or five events a year,” Kelley said. “To really focus on getting people out to those games. If the fans come out and enjoy themselves, they’re going to come back.”
To draw to those select events, the marketing department has also started a “Food Truck Friday” tradition. Every Friday home game will feature two specialty food trucks at McAlister Field.
“There are eight, nine food trucks around campus on any given day because the students like them so much,” Kelley said. “The soccer field is so close to The Row and University Avenue and those dorms right there. It’s an opportunity for us to try and fill McAlister to capacity.”
Last Friday — opening day for the Women of Troy — featured a taco truck and an ice cream truck. The next Food Truck Friday is scheduled for Sept. 9, when the Women of Troy take on Oklahoma State in the Trojan Invitational Tournament.