NEW RECORD: 18K+ fans pack Protective Stadium despite Legion FC loss (PHOTOS)

Birmingham vs Miami 6/7/23 (Bham Now)

“It was a landmark moment not just for our club, but also for soccer. An atmosphere like that is second to none. I’m so proud of Birmingham for showing that we can be a soccer town too.” ~ Birmingham Legion FC Coach Tommy Soehn

Despite a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal 1-0 loss against Inter Miami CF, Major League Soccer’s current “It” franchise (thank you Lionel Messi), our hometown Birmingham Legion FC has 18,418 reasons to feel good about the future of their club and the game of soccer in The Magic City.

For the first time since they moved in their new Uptown digs in North Birmingham, the team fulfilled the hashtag #PackProtective.

Tough Game

Legion Miami 20230607 204517 NEW RECORD: 18K+ fans pack Protective Stadium despite Legion FC loss (PHOTOS)
Birmingham vs Miami 6/7/23 (Bham Now)

For soccer connoisseurs, the game wasn’t an instant classic. The first half looked like both teams were playing for a 0-0 tie. A controversial non-handball call by the center ref midway through the half prevented Legion FC an opportunity to score against Inter Miami’s star keeper and recent U.S. Men’s National Team call-up Drake Callender.

2nd Half Goal and Theatrics

The 2nd half was a totally different game, with Legion FC playing more aggressively. Unfortunately in the 56th minute, Inter Miami’s Nicolás Stefanelli slipped the ball past the Legion’s Matt VanOekel, who had been a brick wall all match, into the net.

The rest of the game, Birmingham’s Three Sparks mounted a furious comeback. In response, the MLS team played very un-Messi-like, delaying the game numerous times with dramatic and apparent “life threatening injuries”. A neutral observer would have given Inter Miami’s medical training staff “Man of the Match” honors because of their remarkable ability to heal.

As a result of Miami’s theatrics and a frustrated Legion squad, an extra 10 minutes were added at the end of the game. 

The Legion came inches close to scoring, but Miami’s Callender kept the clean sheet.

After Game

Legion Miami 20230607 211220 NEW RECORD: 18K+ fans pack Protective Stadium despite Legion FC loss (PHOTOS)
Birmingham vs Miami 6/7/23 (Bham Now)

When the game ended the fans would not leave. Coach Soehn faced them, arms raised over his head and applauded. The players thanked the supporters groups — Magic City Brigade and Elyton Ultras — and then the team continued its tradition of letting the kids out on the field to run, hug and receive autographs from their local superheroes.

Historic Day 

Legion WFC (Maddi Miller/Bham Now)

It was a historic day in Alabama soccer history. Not only did the men in red play in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup, the Legion’s Women’s Football Club (WFC) took to the pitch at Protective for the very first time. 

The game was the club’s inaugural match. It ended in a 1-1 tie.

Summer of Soccer

Now that the tournament has ended, Legion FC begins USL Championship League play once again. With all the extra games added to their schedule, the team has been slumping of late. 

They need us to “Pack Protective” once again to help launch them on a league title run.

Here are the next two home games in June:

Saturday, June 17, 6:30PM vs. Indy Eleven

Wednesday, June 21, 7:00PM vs. Loudoun United FC

 If you purchase any ticket for Legion FC during the month of June, you can attend the Legion WFC matches on the same day for free.

Did you go to the Legion FC vs. Inter Miami CF? Tell us what you thought of the game by tagging us on social media at @bhamnow

Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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