Before 2011, Sporting Kansas City fans in Lawrence lacked a collective identity. Bars rarely showed matches on their TVs, finding other like-minded fans was a struggle and, for the most part, the majority of fans made the 40-minute drive into Kansas City in their own cars, by themselves.
That was before University of Kansas graduate student Adam Crifasi and his friends started the Mass Street Mob – a Sporting KC supporters group that calls the Red Lyon Tavern in downtown Lawrence its home.
Crifasi, a long-time fan, believed a fan base already existed in Lawrence. After Sporting KC “rebranded” – the club was previously called the Kansas City Wizards – and unveiled the brand-new Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., Crifasi decided to bring that fan base together.
“We knew there was a soccer culture in Lawrence that was disconnected,” Crifasi said. “Basically, the whole goal was to organize everyone so we could hang out and we could watch and love soccer together.”
The group started with a small group of fans, but Crifasi said that making Twitter account for the group was the catalyst in the group’s sudden growth.
“We officially named it and declared it a group around June last year but once we got a Twitter was when we first tried to get more people involved,” he said. “Within about four months, we were suddenly able to afford buses [to Sporting KC home matches].”
When Sporting KC plays at home, Mass Street Mob members meet at the Red Lyon Tavern for about half an hour before piling into party buses that will chauffeur them to the stadium’s “Member’s Gate.” Inside that gate lies the Cauldron – a massive section behind the north goal that serves as home for Sporting KC’s rowdiest, loudest fans. Some in the section are brand new fans; some have been around since the team started in 1996.
The seasoned veterans of the Cauldron have worked for years to help the section expand in numbers. Sean Dane, a Cauldron regular since 2002, took time to help Crifasi spread word about the Mass Street Mob.
“With the resurgence in interest in the team last year, we started to find these people in different markets outside of KC that believe in the team and wanted to be more involved,” Dane said. “It’s not like there’s an application process or like we say, ‘we don’t know if you’re qualified.’ It’s more like ‘how can we help you and empower you to grow support in the city you’re in?’”
Dane calls the large fan-base in Lawrence “natural” due to its proximity to the stadium – it’s only 20-minute drive on I-70 – and said the Mass Street Mob currently boasts the biggest numbers among other supporters’ sub-groups within the Cauldron.
“They bring so many people to their away-game watch parties and to the home games,” Dane said. “Whatever we can do – whether it’s money or other resources – to help these groups expand and grow is our duty. It’s the duty of the Cauldron.”