"Buy Local" - Protagonist Series Part 1

Buy Local.

That phrase gets tossed around by all kinds of people when they decry the rise of mega-chains and decline of mom-and-pop stores. It’s what people say when they see another plant move overseas or a town collapse when the last industry pulls out. It’s a catchphrase that means so much more than its two words – it means invest in your hometown, it means believe in what we can do together, it means that price isn’t the only consideration when you shop, it means be loyal to who you are and where you’re from. That phrase means so much to those of us that have watched our towns wither, our farms sell out to multi-nationals, and our government whistle while Rome burns. Maybe we can turn the tide, but we have to work together to get it done.

We choose local because it comes from our hometowns and its built by our neighbors and friends, those that have an investment in the overall success of the community. Our dollars mean more when they are put in the hands of those who have a stake in our hometown and those dollars represent a vote for our long-term, sustainable success. We believe in ourselves and those around us, and we’re going to work together to build something lasting. Honestly, if we don’t do this together, we can’t do it at all.

That idea couldn’t apply more than in the game of soccer. A group of people, likely unknown to each other before the start of the season, who come together for a purpose, who sacrifice time and energy, who build bonds that supersede differences, who sometimes win and sometimes lose - but always do it together - as a team. Great things can happen when a team comes together and believes in their goal. Maybe it’s a championship or maybe just a handful of wins. Regardless, the journey to the end builds character and respect for each other – and the lessons learned along the way make it worthwhile in and of itself.

One of the oldest naming conventions in soccer is the use of the word “United” in the club name. It comes from a tradition in soccer of clubs joining together to form a larger, more formidable foe against opposition. Multiple clubs from a single town were known to lay down their differences and form a new club with United in its name to signify that several teams were represented in the larger body. That type of uniting takes patience, commitment and a willingness to lay down pride. It also takes the vision to do what is right with the target in mind, even if that means sacrificing your own club to get it done.

Support Local Soccer.

There is an idea in this country, sold to us by people with money and power, that the league is the most important thing. That teams come and go, but leagues should have primacy. And that has been the case in almost every major sports league in the United States since day one. Commissioners dictate their teams and the teams fall in line. It’s also the story of labor in the United States. It’s not the way it has to be, just the way it has been for a long time. However, the length of a timeline isn’t the judge of the justice or rightness of a thing.

In every other country with a soccer heritage (and even this country has one, just forgotten), the club comes before league. The leagues change, but your local club is forever. Why forever? Because you control its destiny. You vote with your dollars, your support, your passion, and your energy. The club includes the product of your high school, your local youth club, your neighbors’ sons and daughters play for the club. The league doesn’t change the crest on the chest of the players or the colors of the kits, the club is a representative of the city or town in its name.

Choosing to support your local club is choosing to believe in your hometown. It’s about cheering for your community and all that represents. When they fail, we all fail, because we are one.

So buy a shirt or a scarf, go down to a match, invite your friends and neighbors to come with you. You’re supporting a whole lot more than just another soccer club. You’re funding a local business who chose to stay home instead of looking for the “best target market.” You’re rooting for your sons and daughters on the field. You’re voting for the little guy instead of a big corporation. You’re siding with your hometown instead of shipping your dollars out of state. You’re investing in the community around you and that investment will pay off. Maybe not in championships, but maybe the lessons learned on the way will be worth it.

- Dan Vaughn, Editor and co-Founder

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This article is part of the Protagonist Series, a collection of articles painting the picture of Open-Division soccer in America. For more information about Protagonist USA, visit protagonistsoccer.com

Cliff Conrad