When it comes to what Birmingham soccer has to offer Birmingham Legion FC supporter Scott Crawford has seen it all. Now following Legion FC in his hometown, the Championship club in a place nicknamed the “Magic City” is beginning to produce signs of a potentially magical run.
After an up-and-down start, the expansion side has recently taken the Eastern Conference by the horns, ironing out a five-game unbeaten streak that features signature wins over North Carolina FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies–the latter away from home. Given the club’s recent success, the Alabama native can’t help but think back on how it all began, starting with his return to Birmingham in 2014 after a few years away.
“I remember listening to a podcast with [SiriusXM personality] Jason Davis and he was interviewing the founders of what was at the time Nashville FC,” said Crawford. “It was a grassroots program and I thought ‘if someone ever did that in Birmingham, I’d be all about it.’”
Two weeks and a few conversations later, Crawford discovered local side the Birmingham Hammers, a club that would end up producing now-Legion FC players Mathieu Laurent, among others.
“The Hammers were created by someone in Legion FC’s front office – a guy named Morgan Copes – and they essentially started from nothing,” added Crawford. “They were just an idea. But, like I said at the time, if anyone does anything like that in Birmingham I’d support it.”
A man of his word, Crawford started a soccer blog that focused on the Hammers entitled “Birmingham Backline”, a platform he used to tell soccer stories in the region. Quickly, the Hammers growth was mirrored by Crawford’s words, and as rumblings of an announcement about a new professional soccer grew louder, so too did Crawford’s appetite.
“When the announcement came that Birmingham Legion was joining the USL, to me, it was just a very special day,” said Crawford. “I remember going to the announcement at a local brewery called ‘Good People’ and seeing people like Morgan [Copes] and other from the Hammers group that planted the seeds for all of this to happen in Birmingham and feeling very connected and happy for all of those people that put a lot of good work into it.”
Fast forward to the beginning of the season in March and Legion FC went from a planted seed into a blooming figure, with months of hard work culminating into something that was authentically Birmingham.
“Since the beginning, we’ve had awesome support from our local leaders, businessmen, and companies, and it really makes you feel connected from top to bottom with the club. You’ve got a local ownership group that is totally invested in the city of Birmingham and this club,” noted Crawford.
“When you see people that were involved from day one here when soccer was just becoming a thing having success through the channels that Legion FC provided, it’s gratifying.”
Despite dropping their first two contests, the love from the stands to the field was widespread, and what the community has built since then is nothing short of impressive.
“This is the world’s game coming to our city now,” said Crawford. “Birmingham is a lot bigger city than people realize and we have many different cultures – Hispanic, African-American – and sitting in the Magic City Brigade, there’s also a huge Colombian cohort that sing the songs and participate in the chants. It really is a melting pot and soccer is what drives that.”
Perhaps most special though, standing and singing in the Magic City Brigade alongside Crawford and friends are his three children – Hattie (10), Luke (9), and Norah (5).
“I take the most pride in Birmingham being a club that has a family culture, is a family organization, and for me, a team where I can take my children to the matches,” said Crawford. “They love it. They love the club. These are the memories that they are going to have when they grow up.”
With the team’s form picking up over the last month, Birmingham now sits just above the playoff line with a rivalry contest against Memphis 901 FC scheduled for Saturday night (8:00 p.m. ET | ESPN+). Like he has since the start, Crawford will be there with his family, proud of the Legion FC family and their growth.
“We’ve got some history and I’m looking forward to a fun-filled fan experience this Saturday. We’re one of the three or four hottest teams in the Championship right now and we’re settling into our identity. We’ve got everything we want in front of us through the remaining weeks of the season.”