The excitement of MLS Cup 2004 on Sunday could not be confined to the immaculate 120 X 70 yard stadium field at The Home Depot Center. Instead, the enthusiasm of the event spilled over to surround the entire stadium - literally.
Fans arrived early at the home of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Club Deportivo Chivas USA in Carson, Calif., to soak up the atmosphere of the most crucial match of the 2004 MLS season. When the gates opened at 10 a.m. PT, supporters donning the Blue and White of Kansas City and the Black-and-Red of D.C. United both began filing in. Fans of the league's other squads were also spotted wearing their team's colors, while many neutrals just interested in being near the action also made their arrival.
There was no shortage of activities to keep the early-bird spectators entertained. Behind the north end of the stadium, SoccerFest provided attendees of all ages the chance to play soccer-related games, test new products from Major League Soccer's corporate partners and win an array of prizes. Perhaps most importantly, SoccerFest enabled all to get prepared for an exciting match between the league's top defensive team and its most potent attack force.
"You can't be a fan unless you come to The Home Depot Center and support your home team," said Chris Chavis, a Wizards supporter who made the trek out to Southern California from his home in Kansas City.
Fans from he Nation's Capital echoed that sentiment as well.
"I wouldn't miss this game for the world," said David Simmons, who traveled some 3,000 miles to see his beloved D.C. United attempt to snatch their fourth MLS Cup in nine seasons. "This is my first time here and (The Home Depot Center) is amazing. Hopefully we'll win the game."
Regardless of who turns out to be the victors, MLS Cup 2004 promises to be a memorable event. There is no better place to celebrate the game of soccer than The Home Depot Center, a magnificent facility that has created a great championship atmosphere for Sunday's big match. Fans had plenty of time and space to enjoy themselves before the match and the weather couldn't be any better.
A sellout crowd is expected Sunday, which is sure to provide and electrifying buzz inside the stadium. If the action inside the ground reaches the same fever pitch as that around it, all Major League Soccer fans will be treated to something special.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.