The U.S. men's national soccer team now has its very own celebrity superfan: actor-comedian Drew Carey. The pride of Cleveland is so into the game that he traveled to Trinidad and Tobago last month and Mexico last weekend for World Cup qualifiers, and plans to follow the American team all the way to the Cup in Germany next summer.
How did a guy like you get interested in soccer?
I always watched World Cups, but I never understood the rules exactly. I started going to L.A. Galaxy games because Home Depot Center had just opened and I wanted something to do in L.A. with sports. I can't be a Lakers fan or a Dodgers fan because I'm from Cleveland. Cleveland didn't have a soccer team, though, and Home Depot Center is so nice, I thought, heck, I'm going there. I bought season tickets, got a suite and bought every 'Soccer for Dummies' book I could find. Now I know all about free kicks, corner kicks, throw-ins, I can explain the offside rule.
You recently attended a Celtic-Rangers game in Scotland, one of the greatest club rivalries in the world. How'd that come about?
I was playing Xbox, FIFA 2005, and I was managing Rangers. I went online to see how they were doing in real life and maybe buy a Rangers cap. I saw that they were playing Celtic pretty soon and I wanted to go. So I found some tickets and went to Glasgow. I read all about the rivalry; it's unbelievable! It would be like the Mets playing the Yankees in the World Series -- but the Yankees represent the Catholics and the Mets represent the Protestants. It's so intense.
Who'd you root for?
Celtic! I had Celtic guys all around me. I was warned: You don't accidentally root for the other side. All these guys looked like they just came from the factory and they would beat the hell out of you if you supported Rangers.
You've got a lot of money, MLS needs investors. Any interest in running an MLS team in Cleveland?
I would be interested, but I don't think Cleveland would support one. There's so much happening in Cleveland right now, it's over-saturated with sports -- the Cavs, the Browns, the Indians, an indoor soccer team does well, the Columbus Crew is two hours away, Ohio State football. I thought about doing it, but business-wise, I don't know if Cleveland would work.
Do you think celebrities following the U.S. team will increase the popularity of the sport in the U.S.?
It doesn't hurt, but soccer sells soccer -- that's the only thing that will sell it. Landon Donovan sells soccer, Eddie Johnson sells soccer. If we do well at the World Cup, if MLS continues to grow at the right pace, that's the big thing. All of that sells soccer better than any celebrity can. It's only because of that stuff that I'm interested myself.
You talked about soccer on Jay Leno's show. Didn't he think it was kind of weird?
A lot of people like soccer -- they just don't go on TV and talk about it when they're supposed to be plugging a movie. I was supposed to be plugging "Robots" and I wore a U.S. jersey and talked about going to Scotland and how much I love watching soccer.
-- Steven Goff