Football in North America has been on a quest for authenticity for decades. It’s debatable whether hardcore fans are helping or hindering that goal
When Major League Soccer kicked off for the first time back in 1996, European football’s Ultras culture was just about winding down. Of course, Ultras still exist to this day, but the height of football’s sometimes violent, always notorious, counterculture came in the 1980s when English and Italian fans earned a toxic reputation. As in many things, though, MLS has spent the past few years catching up.
The game in North America has fostered a fan culture of its own. You can see it in the fanbases of the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Orlando City, Atlanta United, LAFC and more, but there are loud and proud pure Ultras groups too. Groups like Inebriatti in Canada, who last month were banned by Toronto FC for causing mayhem at a game in Ottawa. They lit smoke bombs and tossed flares on to the pitch while wearing masks, alarming other fans in the stadium. They won’t be at another Toronto FC game any time soon.