Red Stars supporters group Chicago Local 134 doubles membership, growing right alongside NWSL
NWSL supporters groups are growing with the league, and for the loyal fans who’ve been there since the beginning, it’s impossible to describe the sense of pride associated with that growth.
Before the pandemic and socially distanced viewing parties, Chicago Local 134 lead organizer Maggie Dziubek helped set up a concert for Red Stars forward Yuki Nagasato.
Members of Local 134 and the Red Stars piled into The Frontier, a cozy theater in Edgewater, to hear Nagasato on drums for Bruised and Broken Band.
None of them knew it then, but that night would be the last in-person interaction Local 134 would have with the team for the foreseeable future.
“We like to refer to it as the last good thing that happened,” Dziubek said.
In the last year, Local 134 membership has doubled, growing from 130 paying members to 270. It costs $20 for a yearlong membership, which includes small Red Stars swag items and inside access to a community built on a passion for women’s soccer.
NWSL supporters groups are growing right alongside the league, and for the loyal fans who’ve been there since the beginning, it’s impossible to describe the sense of pride associated with that growth.
One thing is certain, it doesn’t go unnoticed by NWSL players.
“Our league wouldn’t be here without them, so for me when I play, I’m playing for them in particular,” Red Stars midfielder Danielle Colaprico said. “All of us Red Stars feel that way about Local 134. We want to put on a show for our fans to give them something to get behind and support.”
Local 134 was founded in 2008 and followed the Red Stars from their time in the Women’s Professional Soccer league through to their membership in the NWSL. Nicole Hack, a current member of the Fire’s Section 8 supporters group, was one of the original lead organizers of Local 134.
In the early days of Local 134, Hack said the group was running with little to no support. There were no membership fees to help fund group events, and despite it being free to join, membership was almost nonexistent.
“In the earlier days, numbers were small,” Hack said. “The game was just starting, and it was difficult to get fans and supporters out to games. So it’s exciting to see the dynamic of what Local 134 has done to grow the game.”
Eight years into the NWSL, Local 134 is celebrating its growth while also holding on to its counterculture traditions.
Supporters groups in the NWSL aren’t simply highly dedicated fans, they also champion human rights in their communities. Local 134 prides itself on inclusivity, standing firmly against racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
Dziubek is cognizant of the principles that NWSL supporters groups were founded on and tries to ensure those aren’t lost as women’s soccer gains more mainstream support.
“Because American soccer supporting is such a subculture, it represents something outside of the mainstream,” Dziubek said. “Women’s soccer takes that a step further. It is an inherently political act and feminist choice to invest in this league.”
The same way NWSL players compete on the field, supporters groups engage in friendly competition of their own.
The supporters groups have developed unique cultures based on their specific markets. Local 134, for example, embodies the same blue-collar work ethic as the Red Stars, and its name pays tribute to the city’s deep sense of pride in union history. When the NWSL resumes in 2020 or 2021, Local 134 has plans of its own to be the best in the league.
“Our goal is to take down the Riveters as the strongest, largest supporters group in the NWSL,” Dziubek said. “We feel like we can take that from them, so, honestly, we’re building toward that.”