Colombia fans dominate crowd in USMNT tune-up game: 'USA, Colombia es tu papá' (2024)

Commanders Field, home of the NFL’s Washington Commanders, has ample room for pregame tailgating and the lots that surround the facility were full of revelers. On Saturday afternoon, the smell of grilled meat wafted through the air as fans soaked in the summer sun and prepared to watch the USMNT welcome Colombia in a Copa America tune-up.


Ostensibly, the match against Colombia was a home one for the United States — a tune-up for the upcoming Copa America, which will be hosted by the U.S.. But the sights and sounds in the parking lot told a different tale.

There wasn’t a sea of red, white and blue. It was a sea of yellow and red. The soundtrack wasn’t classic rock, it was the thumping beat of cumbia — the traditional sounds of Colombia. Not far from the U.S. Capitol, the scene outside the stadium — and later in it — had a distinctly Latin American flavor.

The D.C. area has a sizable population of Colombian-Americans. New York City and nearby parts of New Jersey, however, have the largest concentration of Colombians in the U.S. and many fans made the drive down I-95 to support Los Cafeteros. A few traveled from Colombia, too, like Hilario Lopez, a 67-year-old from Cartagena.

“Los seguiremos a cualquier parte,” Lopez said. “We’ll follow them wherever they go.”

Moments later, when Colombia nabbed the game’s opening goal early in the first half, Lopez and those around him erupted in celebration. Not long after, when Colombia doubled its lead through a Rafael Santos Borre bicycle kick, a sizable chunk of the crowd broke into a chant: “USA, Colombia es tu papá.”

USA, Colombia is your daddy.”

The smattering of USMNT fans nearby looked almost out of place in the crowd of 55,494 and took it with a grain of salt, as they almost always do. This sort of partisan ‘home’ crowd is nothing new to them. The U.S. is large and diverse and nearly every opponent the USMNT face, particularly those from Latin America, has some significant population of immigrants somewhere in this country.

For years, U.S. Soccer has scheduled matches against those opponents, particularly Mexico, in cities that feature large populations of immigrants from those nations.

There are exceptions to that, particularly in meaningful competition, but it still happens.

Colombia fans dominate crowd in USMNT tune-up game: 'USA, Colombia es tu papá' (2)

Colombia’s fans had plenty to shout about (Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

In 2021, in the inaugural edition of the CONCACAF Nations League, the USMNT defeated Mexico in the final in Denver in front of an overwhelmingly Mexican crowd. U.S. winger Christian Pulisic immortalized the moment with a goal celebration hushing the crowd. Just last year, the USMNT beat El Tri again in Arlington, Texas — where they’ll open the Copa America in a few weeks — in front of a similarly biased audience.


“I think it’s great. It’s a celebration,” USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said after the match. “Our job is to engage the fans and make it a fun spectacle and really compete. We know the crowds are going to be mostly slanted towards the opponent in games like these. We expect it to be the same on Wednesday (against Brazil) in Orlando.”

Copa America is among the oldest international soccer tournaments in the world and Saturday’s match against Colombia was one of two tune-ups the U.S. has planned for the tournament. Aside from the 2016 Copa America Centenario, which was also played in the U.S., the tournament has never been hosted outside South America. The U.S. will face Bolivia, Panama and Uruguay in group play and they should get stronger support in Arlington, Atlanta, Ga. and Kansas City, Mo. where those matches will be played.

But if they advance, every facet of their path gets more difficult, including the atmosphere.

Colombia fans dominate crowd in USMNT tune-up game: 'USA, Colombia es tu papá' (3)

Richard Rios celebrates scoring Colombia’s third goal (Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

A quarterfinal matchup — likely against either Colombia or Brazil — would pit them against teams widely supported in the U.S. and would also attract sizable populations of casual fans. It’s the reason the tournament is being held in the U.S. to begin with, aside from financial gain. Nearly every participating team has some measure of support in this country. It’s a boon to the atmosphere and, most importantly, ticket sales.

The 2016 edition of Copa America had an average attendance of over 46,000. A year earlier, in Chile, games averaged 25,000.

On Saturday, Pulisic had a far shorter evaluation of the atmosphere and lack of U.S. support than Berhalter did.

“It’s pretty standard, I guess,” Pulisic told reporters.

While the USMNT floundered in the second half against Colombia, losing 5-1, the majority of fans went home happy and chanting as their team extended its two-year unbeaten streak to 22 games. “USA, Colombia es tu papá.”

GO DEEPERThe Briefing: USMNT 1, Colombia 5 - Berhalter calls loss a 'wake-up call'

(Top photo: John Dorton/Getty Images for USSF)

Colombia fans dominate crowd in USMNT tune-up game: 'USA, Colombia es tu papá' (5)Colombia fans dominate crowd in USMNT tune-up game: 'USA, Colombia es tu papá' (6)

Pablo Maurer is a staff writer for The Athletic who covers soccer, with a particular focus on the history and culture of the game. His writing and photography have been featured in National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Gothamist and a variety of other outlets. Follow Pablo on Twitter @MLSist

Colombia fans dominate crowd in USMNT tune-up game: 'USA, Colombia es tu papá' (2024)
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