Bay FC Watch Parties Unite Soccer Community

Bay FC Watch Parties Unite Soccer Community

Bay FC supporter groups have spread the word about the latest professional sports franchise to sweep the Bay Area by storm.

During its fifth game of the season, a 5-2 road loss to the Kansas City Current this past Saturday afternoon out in the Midwest, two of Bay FC’s big supporter groups, The Big Poppies and Bridge Brigade, threw five different watch parties in three cities: San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

The Big Poppies is the creation of Bay FC’s Founding Four's husbands. John Albers (Danielle Slaton), Jerry Smith (Brandi Chastain), Ricky Lewis (Leslie Osbourne), and Adam Eyre (Aly Wagner) got together one night at a party and wanted to create a group where they could support their wives with family-oriented events, bringing communities all across the Bay Area together to support Bay’s women’s professional soccer team.

“The four husbands got together at an event one night and said, ‘What the hell, we ought to have a supporter’s group dedicated to dads taking care of kids and just having fun,’” said Albers, who attended the watch party at O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub in San Pedro Square in downtown San Jose, regarding the inspiration for creating the group.

Albers continued, “The idea slowly started to germinate. Then it really took fire when we met our fifth co-founder J.T. Service, who runs a marketing company (Soul Focus) and is affiliated with the team. The five of us together threw a whole bunch of ideas in the pot and have come up with a whole bunch of random stuff. It’s just intended to be fun and build the community. That’s something we really want to see around this team, to build a strong sense of community and have good family fun.”

According to Albers, it was Lewis who originally brought up the idea of getting the four husbands of the Founding Four to create the group as they attended the same party where Eyre was also present. Lewis mentioned it to Albers, and then they “roped in” Eyre five minutes later before finally getting together with Smith to present the idea, and the rest is history.

Smith, who is a pillar of South Bay soccer as the head coach of the Santa Clara University women’s soccer team since 1987, said he didn’t need much convincing to be one of the founding four of The Big Poppies.

“When the idea was presented to me, I said, ‘This is awesome!’ Dads supporting our spouses, supporting the team, supporting families coming together to enjoy Bay FC, a great brand of soccer. So that was an easy decision for me to say I’m all in on it,” Smith said.

Smith said what separates Bay FC from the rest of professional and minor league teams in the Bay Area is how family-oriented the team’s values are and the ability to have young girls attend games with the sense that they too could be playing on the pitch one day at PayPal Park.

“The (San Francisco) 49ers, (Golden State Warriors), (San Francisco) Giants, we are family-friendly, the San Jose Giants very family-friendly. But I think this is a little bit different. This is women’s sports, and it’s great for young girls to be able to look up at a sporting event and see people like themselves, (to) inspire them and motivate them to someday be on the field for us to cheer for,” Smith said.

There were families with their young daughters sitting outside in the patio area at O’Flaherty’s watching the game together, cheering on their new heroes. Friends Kat Aguilero and Clarissa Exantus were sitting together with their daughters Valentina and Tati, both 11 years old, as they combined two tables for their families to enjoy the game on the big-screen TVs.

Valentina and Tati both play soccer on the same team in their MVLA (Mountain View-Los Alots) soccer club league, in which Bay FC head coach Albertin Montoya is one of the league’s board of directors and one of its former coaches. Valentina’s favorite player is Asisat Oshoala, while Tati, who plays fullback, has Kayla Sharples as her favorite player.

“We play for MVLA, Albertin’s (Montoya) league,” Valentina said. “So yeah, we’ve always wanted to play professionally. We play a lot of games together.”

Exantus noted not only are she and the community excited to have a professional women’s soccer franchise locally located, but having the team invest big money to bring in quality players shows how important women’s sports are to all the young girls’ dreams of having a chance to become a reality.

“We are so excited to be able to experience this (team). To be in a place where our girls get to see the empowerment and have people to look up to immediately. I think it’s been really cool because the “Founders” have been really accessible, and they have tried to be around and really trying to build a fanbase and be really thoughtful about it,” Exantus said.

Just up the road outside of downtown SJ, in Japan Town, the Bridge Brigade, which is Bay FC’s version of the San Jose Earthquakes support group The Ultras, held one of their watch parties at Jack’s Bar. Their support group filled up the back patio of the bar with members and supporters of the group.

Bridge Brigade co-founder and co-president Jennifer Purvis said as soon as she heard Bay FC officially announced as an expansion team of the National Women’s Soccer League, that is when she wanted to create a support group to bring the fans and community together.

When asked if she could believe the buzz Bay FC has generated so soon in its inaugural season, Purvis was surprised and not so surprised by the membership and support the Bridge Brigade has received since its inception.

“Yes and no. Obviously, soccer is super big here on the West Coast. Especially here in the Bay Area, we’re a hub of women’s soccer. We have some of the best ECNL teams here. We have some of the best women’s collegiate programs here. So, I knew there was probably going to be a big following for Bay FC. But I didn’t expect the turnout we’ve been getting to our events, our supporter’s group. We have almost 500 members now that have signed up for our membership,” Purvis said.

Purvis echoed The Big Poppies' sentiment that Bay FC equals quality family entertainment and that both support groups work together to spread the gospel about Bay FC.

“Just having the support from The Big Poppies, having everybody be so involved (in getting the word out), it’s like much more family-friendly I feel like in NWSL soccer as in “broso”, as we like to call it, in men’s soccer,” said Purvis.

The big support from the fans in San Jose is why Purvis said there was a need to have three watch parties in the South Bay alone because of the differentiation of fans where different venues can hold parties for all-age, family-friendly as well as adult-only venues.

What separates the NWSL from the previous women’s professional soccer leagues that weren’t sustainable is the financial support the teams in the NWSL have that the previous ones didn’t and the overall support of women’s sports in general is what both Smith and Purvis believe will make Bay FC a team to watch for future generations.

“Obviously, the NWSL has been around for a little while now. They have more financial backing, more people are involved, they’re getting games into more households. Eyes on the product is what ultimately drives success,” Purvis said.

“I think the culture and environment for women’s sports is blowing up. Women’s soccer is blowing up, women’s basketball is blowing up. Of course, Caitlin Clark has a lot to do with that. The Warriors and Northern California have a new women’s professional basketball team. Bay FC is a great professional soccer team. And I just think there’s a bigger market now for women’s professional sports. Bay FC is absolutely doing it the right way,” Smith said.

Bay FC returns to the pitch this Saturday 4/27 against the San Diego Wave at 7:00 pm at Snapdragon Stadium.

For more information about The Big Poppies, go to For more information about the Bridge Brigade, check out

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