Pint-sized English Premier League fans: Cheering on Manchester United in Chicago

In a city where basketball, football, baseball and hockey reign supreme, it can be challenging to be a diehard soccer fan. But, thanks to the Chicago Fire that tide is turning, and more and more fans routinely crowd into Toyota Park in south suburban Bridgeview on game days during the team's six-month season that runs March through October.

While my two young soccer fans love to cheer on the Chicago Fire, their little sports-loving hearts belong to Manchester United.

A mock bedroom shrine to the boys in red.

A mock bedroom shrine to the boys in red.

Yes, our two Chicago born and raised sons have somehow become huge fans of one of the English Premier League’s top contenders. They idolize Wayne Rooney and his famous bicycle kick. They think Robin van Persie is a virtual soccer magician. They have scarves, hats and jerseys emblazoned with the Manchester United logo. They want to know every move the team makes up and down the league’s standings. They want to grow their hair out to look like Tom Cleverley. And, most importantly, they want to cheer on their favorite team – but that’s not the easiest thing to do when you’re nearly 4,000 miles across “the pond” from England.

In search of a place to watch soccer games played 6 hours ahead of us

For quite a while now, my husband and I have talked about getting our kids up and out of the house early on the weekend to catch their favorite sports team on TV. Since Manchester United plays their games in England – six hours ahead of Chicago – the games usually start between 8:30 am and 12:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. NBC began broadcasting the English Premier League season in August 2013, which has made it easier to catch more – but not all – of their games.

Last Saturday, as luck would have it, sixth-ranked Manchester United was scheduled to take on Crystal Palace right after our sons’ early morning basketball class

Our 5-year-old son's hair looks just like Tom Cleverley's hair. (Credit: Manutd.com)

Our 5-year-old son's hair looks just like Tom Cleverley's hair. (Credit: Manutd.com)

let out for the day. So, with our boys still pumped up with sports-fueled euphoria, we piled into our car in search of a family-friendly bar where we could watch Manchester United take on 16th-ranked Crystal Palace, and hopefully bring home a win.

Our first stop was Temple Bar in Lakeview. My husband and I naively thought we could waltz into the bar on a Saturday afternoon, grab a table, and watch the Manchester United game with a few other loyal fans. Boy were we wrong. The narrow bar was packed with tons of fans cheering on the boys in red. A few lucky ones were able to snag one of about a dozen tables or a coveted seat at the bar. The majority of the fans were content to stand three-people deep, bellying up to the bar, with their eyes glued to one of the many TVs showing the game.

Temple Bar Chicago (Credit: TempleBarChicago.com)

Temple Bar Chicago (Credit: TempleBarChicago.com)

With two boys just shy of about 4 feet with us, we knew it would be hard for them to look up and see much of anything – let alone a TV hanging above a bar. And, then there was the constant need to try to stay clear of waitresses carefully balancing trays of pint glasses filled with beer. With 80 minutes left in the game, we knew it was too much to ask our sons to stand in a sea of much-taller cheering fans and so we went off in search of another venue.

Back in the car, I called over to the Map Room in Bucktown. The employee who answered the phone said the Manchester United game wasn’t currently on any of their TV screens, but sweetly added that he’d be happy to put it on for us. Before we hung up, he insisted on searching the TV listings to make sure the game was broadcast on a station shown at the Map Room.

I so appreciated the Map Room employee’s valiant efforts to completely answer my question – and save us a potentially unnecessary trip to the bar. But, the idea of going from a bar packed with Manchester United fans to one where we’d potentially be the only fans sporting our red jerseys and scarves just wasn’t as appealing to us. So, the search went on.

The third time is the charm, especially for these Man United fans

Next we headed to The Globe Pub in North Center. I remembered hearing a fellow parent of a young Manchester United fan singing the bar's praises one day when we struck up a conversation solely because our sons were all wearing the same jerseys. And, I’m glad it came rushing back to me that Saturday afternoon in the car.

The interior of the back room of The Globe Pub - after the game.

The interior of the back room of The Globe Pub - after the game.

The bar, which we’ve driven by numerous times, is much bigger than you would expect. Stepping inside, we were overcome by its size, the amount of Manchester United fans seated in it, and the number of open tables just perfect for a family of four. We had hit the Manchester United, family-friendly, bar-viewing jackpot.

Together, the four of us, happily pulled up seats at a four-top table in the bar’s back room where we could see the Manchester United game in front of us, to the left of us, to the right of us and pretty much wherever we ventured a look at any given moment. In our room alone, there were at least two more families with young children – all with their eyes glued to the TVs.

We quickly ordered drinks, with the adults selecting something from the extensive list of draft beers. The food was kid-pleasing, with lots of good options,

My son happily eating a French fry...

My son happily eating a French fry at The Globe Pub.

including chicken wings, quesadillas, burgers, salads and wraps. We opted to munch on a few appetizers and happily dug into a plate of fries and a two orders of the Stadium Pretzels.

Count us in to see Man United here in Chicago at The Globe Pub

At The Globe Pub, we've found our local place to cheer on Manchester United as a family – along with dozens more people who also share an appreciation for the team, the English Premier League or just international sports in general. It was incredible to be able to cheer on Rooney and van Persie as they each scored their goals, lifting the team to a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace – right there on the north side of Chicago just a few blocks west of Wrigley Field.

Our recent Saturday experience will make it easier for all of us to get up and out of bed early on the weekend to assume our new spot within the international soccer fan scene in Chicago.

Are you a Manchester United fan? Do you live in Chicago? Where do you like to watch the games? Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.

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