Date of Award

May 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies

Committee Member

Angela N Pratt

Committee Member

Stephanie M Pangborn

Committee Member

Kristen Okamoto


Professional soccer has been growing across the United States as the professional

leagues begin to expand and experience more success both on and off the field. A unique fan experience can be seen with soccer as compared to other sports, with the opportunity for fans to be a part of a supporter group, a group whose main purpose is to be the most passionate and loyal fans for their team. Atlanta United, a Major League Soccer (MLS) team located in Atlanta, GA, was one of the MLS’ expansion teams in 2017 and has experienced immense success since its inception. Through the use of a phenomenological study, I aimed to gain an in-depth understanding of the essence of the experience of being in a supporter group of Atlanta United, specifically the Resurgence supporter group. I conversed with nine participants from the Resurgence supporter group using a semi- structured interview approach. Several themes emerged through the process of analyzing interview transcripts, the relationship therein described by two overarching categories: Unity and Disunity. The fan experience of unity is evidenced by sub-themes of connection to the city, engagement, sense of family/home, performance, and recognition; fans’ experience of disunity is evidenced by sub-themes of front office relations, inter- group relations, and the future. These themes resonate with multiple communication theories and concepts such as social identity theory, theory of performance, BIRGing and CORFing, fan consumption, and organizational identification. In addition to the theoretical significance of findings, this study also provides valuable information for professional soccer teams within the United States as well as the organization of fan groups designed to support them.



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