Photo courtesy Steven Christy / OKC Energy FC
Over the past couple of days on USLSoccer.com as part of “Raise Your Flag” month in the USL, we’ve taken a look at the visual displays supporters have brought to the USL. From Heather Stewart’s two-pole banners for Seattle Sounders FC 2’s players to the creation of the River City Red Army’s extravagant celebration of the start of the Richmond Kickers’ 25th season, the creativity the league’s fans have shown over the seasons has been remarkable to witness.
With that, here are five of our favorites tifos – and one bonus – from recent seasons that have highlighted both significant history for clubs and cities, and the sense of fun and silliness that can make the camaraderie within supporters groups across the league a joy to be part of.
Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC
Since Sacramento Republic FC joined the USL before the 2014 season, the Tower Bridge Battalion have been its most fervent supporters. In addition to the standout work they’ve done in the local community – most notably with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation – the supporters have also shown a great sense of creativity in their pregame festivities.
That came to the fore prior to the 2014 USL Cup Final at Papa Murphy’s Park against the Harrisburg City Islanders, where a three-banner spread covered almost the entire section to show the pride the fans had at the club’s accomplishments on and off the field in its inaugural season.
Photo courtesy Steel Army
The longtime supporters group for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, the Steel Army, has been there through the club’s ups and downs since 1999. While the group has always had an edge to its support, the sense of humor that comes from being a fan has always been present over the years.
For the opening game of the 2014 season, the club’s second at Highmark Stadium, the Steel Army put together the club’s slogan – #UNLEASH – with one of the most beloved villains in cartoon history, C. Montgomery Burns, who commanded then-Head Coach Justin Evans to Unleash the Hounds for the new season.
Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies
When the Tampa Bay Rowdies joined the USL this past offseason, it also meant the addition of another longtime supporters group in the form of Ralph’s Mob. Named for Ralph Rowdie, the club’s original mascot in the 1970s, the group has been around since prior to the club’s first year in 2010. With a large support framework, the group has made other memorable tifos over the years.
For the Rowdies' first game in the USL, against in-state rival Orlando City B no less, the Mob pulled out another big design as the face of Ralph Rowdies broke through a USL door in the style of Jack Torrance – played by Jack Nicholson – in legendary horror movie The Shining. In terms of introductions, it certainly left an impression.
Photo courtesy Die Innenstadt
As soon as it was announced FC Cincinnati would join the USL for the 2016 season, one year after the advent of Louisville City FC, the rivalry between the two clubs immediately came forward. Separated by just 90 minutes, the club came together for the first time in April last year, and Cincinnati supporters group Die Innenstadt brought the humor with a jab at its neighbors.
Incorporating video game history with the use of Donkey Kong, Super Mario and a Fleur de Lys emblazoned barrel, the Bustin’ Barrels image was an instant classic in a season full of memorable images at Nippert Stadium.
Photo courtesy Steven Christy / OKC Energy FC
Maybe the most meaningful of all the tifos here was unveiled in 2015 by OKC Energy FC supporters’ group The Grid, as they paid tribute to the Survivor Tree in downtown Oklahoma City that has been an emblem of the city since the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
To commemorate the 20th anniversary, John Bratt of Dove Science Academy, The Grid’s supporters and students from Bratt’s school created a visual recreation of the tree, along with the slogan “The Spirit of This City Will Not Be Defeated,” the inscription that surrounds the tree that still stands downtown.
Photo courtesy Mark Guthrel / Saint Louis FC
Saint Louis FC’s St. Louligans predate the club by a number of years, having supported soccer in all forms around the city – including the Premier Development League’s St. Louis Lions, about to kick off their new season – until the professional game returned to the city in 2015.
After two years of struggles on the field for Saint Louis FC, this offseason brought about major changes as former MLS and USL Coach of the Year Preki was brought on board to set the team in the right direction. To mark his first home opener, the St. Louligans welcomed the local soccer icon with open arms, as the club marked the Dawn of a New Day.