Tyler Junior College’s mens soccer team has a chance to repeat as national champions on their home turf.
“I’d rather have it at home because we got the home field advantage,” sophomore defender Brenton Griffiths said.
Yet, historically, home field advantage is not what the doctor ordered for a championship team.
Since the merger of the NFC and AFC in 1967, none of the NFL’s 32 teams have been able to hoist the Lombardi trophy in their home¬towns and with the Dallas Cowboys’ record at 1-7, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen soon. College football is not safe from the home-field curse either. In 2006, the USC Trojans clashed with the Texas Long¬horns in Pasadena just 11 miles from their home in Southern California for a national championship falling to the Longhorns 41-38 behind a crowd of USC fans.
In Major League Soccer’s adolescence existence of 15 years, not one of the leagues 16 teams has been able to snatch glory at its home stadium. In 2009, early tournament favorite and UEFA Champions League host Real Madrid battled through the group stage of the prestigious tourna¬ment but eventually got knocked out by underdog Lyon in the elimina¬tion rounds.
The home field curse has fallen upon NJCAA soccer it¬self. No men’s NJCAA soccer team has won the trophy while hosting the tournament in the past 12 years, stacking the odds against TJC soccer. But if the Apaches don’t win the national title, the fact that they’re host¬ing the tournament should help in the growth of their fan base. However, Assistant Coach Chris Handy disagrees.
“I think people in Tyler are used to hosting this tournament,” Handy said.
Soccer has been viewed as the world’s sport ever since the game was invented in England during the late 19th century. Americans didn’t latch onto the sport until 1994 when the United States hosted the World Cup. The great play of the American national team helped grow and expand soccer in the U.S. and gave birth to the MLS or Major League Soccer. Television and other media exposure has always helped in the growth or destruction of a sport. During the early 1900s till the late 80s, boxing was one of America’s top sports. High-profiled battles between Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier or George Foreman broadcast on network television fueled the sport. When boxing turned to pay-per-view in an attempt to seek big revenue, boxing entered into its last act and slowly descended into the abyss.
Nonetheless, the TJC Apache Soccer team feels that they are ready for this tournament and are excited to play at home.
At the entrance corridor of the Pat Hartley complex, freshman for¬ward Kejoun Benjamin bounced in his chair swinging his hands back and forth as if he was ready to take on the world, projecting an enthusi¬asm that engulfed the whole team.
“It’s going to be exciting especially because we’re home,” freshman mid-fielder Giovanni Morado said.
Time will tell if the team will be able bring home the title for a second straight year or will they fall prey, like so many others, to the pres¬sures of the home field advantage.