SAN ANTONIO — Early on a gray Saturday morning, more than a thousand people came out to Smoke BBQ's Skybar on Crockett Street. It wasn't a typical time.
"This is the first time I've paid to park at a sport's bar before 8 a.m." Erick McCollum said. "But the World Cup only happens once every four years."
The U.S. Men's National team had made it out of their group and into the elimination rounds of the tournament. It was big. The USA didn't even qualify for the previous World Cup tournament.
It was also big for Smoke BBQ, which had already held watch parties in connection with the Crocketteers – an independent San Antonio soccer supporters group.
Owner Adrian Martinez said the venue had nearly 1000 people or more for each of the first three games the U.S. team had played in the tournament. Martinez said the establishment was one of the largest parties in the city and it made a difference for his business.
"In a time of need, when it became cold and rainy and slowed down, they (Crocketteers) came in with thousands of people," Martinez said. "It was amazing seeing the last couple of games and people coming together."
Martinez said the turnout also helped raise San Antonio's profile when it came to hosting soccer events.
"I think in general for the city, it's having the opportunities for more professional sports teams and showing that we can support all different platforms of sports and not just the Spurs," Martinez said. "Now we have soccer and hopefully we can have more in San Antonio."
The World Cup tournament also comes on the heels of a historic win for the San Antonio Football Club. San Antonio FC won their first ever USL title in November and beat Louisville City FC 3-1.
Crocketteers board member James Hope told KENS 5 it was another sign that Soccer was growing in the San Antonio area and he believes interest in soccer is already seeing another boost this year.
"Over the years we've seen that the world cup has really helped in the growth of youth soccer and adult soccer across the nation. San Antonio is a leader for soccer in Texas and we are seeing that even more every world cup. The number of new players grows," Hope said.
Hope said he expected the sport to grow even more by 2026 as Texas will host some of the 2026 World Cup matches.
While the U.S. Men's National Team lost their match to the Netherlands 3-1 and were knocked out of the tournament supports said the U.S. team is very young and many players could continue to improve and return in four years.
Fan Isla Diaz told KENS 5 she had traveled from McAllen to enjoy the watch party with friends. Diaz said, whether the U.S. team wins or not, showing local support is critical for the future.
"Even if they lose we are still here to support them. At the end of the day if people get pictures of us, they will see that support. It will stay in history," Diaz said. "There is still next time and this support will stay forever. We have to support our country."