There is no such thing as a lesser fan.
Sometimes there are 'soccer snobs', who when you mention you follow the Sounders or a big name European team, they grill you for specific reasons, like 'when did you begin watching soccer' and 'who is your favorite player'. It can sometimes be used to screen out the posers from the real fans, but generally when you do it, you just come off as arrogant hipster prick ('Oh, I so started following Livorno since before they were relegated' T_T). Yeah, sure... asshole.
Which is why I love it when people share how they first fell in love with the Sounders and soccer in general. As Americans, we aren't all necessarily born into it like most people throughout the rest of the world. So everyone always remembers the moment when it happened, and everyone's story is always a little bit different. Whether it's a certain game or specific play, or maybe just experiencing the slow and gradual development of this obsession/mental illness we all share. It's my favorite question to ask when I meet new fans.
Head over to the Sounders website to read this great interview by Matt Gaschk. It features Ted Smith, one of the guys from the KISW Men's Room radio show, who explains how he got the soccer bug.
I used to listen to the Men's Room a lot, back in high school when I was stuck working in a car garage and the shop radio rotated between classic rock and talk-shows (I know, typical Man stuff). One of the things I remembered about the Men's Room talk-show was that it was targeted towards the 'average American male', and the topic of soccer wasn't commonly brought up in between discussing beer, boobs, and farts (this was before the Sounders went to MLS). I always wondered how guys like them would react to a sport like soccer, ie - not how mainstream Seattle, but mainstream America as represented by these guys, would accept soccer.
Turns out, these guys (and many more) love it. And not because it's filling some void of the Sonics or Seahawks off-season (for the most part). I mean, read the interview if you haven't yet. These guys aren't just going to the games and learning the rules, they are also following EPL teams and creating relationships with the players. These so-called 'new' fans really aren't any different from me or you. I mean, I follow other clubs (Chelsea mostly), am super big on the USMNT, and can get a little too passionate about the game. The only difference with Ted is that he started just a little bit later than I did.
So besides the obvious fact that there is some merit to the world's game being as popular as it is, I think it shows that there is just some level that every soccer fan has. Maybe it's like some intrinsic level of excitement you get when you're finding your seats, or the indescribable feeling you get in your fizzy gland when your team scores some history making goal.
In any case, for the new guys who are lurking around here, I want to ask you! Why are you here?