Bryan James ’95 keeps an eye on the Cup

Though the United States was ultimately not selected to be a host for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, it can't be said that Elon alumni didn't do their part to bring the international soccer tournament to America. Read about Bryan James '95, a soccer aficionado who worked with U.S. Soccer officials on America's bid to host the Cup. The article first appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of The Magazine of Elon.

Bryan James ’95


At first glance, Bryan James ’95 doesn’t fit the profile of your typical soccer fan. He speaks softly. You never hear him complain about how Americans “don’t understand” the game. His shirt-and-tie day job doesn’t evoke images of the rowdy crowds often seen in ESPN soccer highlight reels.

Maybe that’s why James is the perfect man to serve on a committee with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to convince FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, that the United States, and Philadelphia in particular, is the best place to host the World Cup in 12 years.

“It will be such a positive event for the city, but it will also bee a positive experience for the participants and their fans,” James says.

Those who know James say there’s no doubt his involvement is a good thing for the U.S. and Philadelphia bids. Look no further than the Sons of Ben, a soccer fan club named for founding father and Philadelphia icon Benjamin Franklin. The club played a key role in the creation of the Philadelphia Union Major League Soccer franchise, which concluded its first season of play in October.

James, the Sons of Ben president, and a close-knit group of soccer aficionados grew the club from its birth in a South Philadelphia tavern to their raucous presence in ppl Park, the Union’s home on the shores of the Delaware River in Chester, Pa., just south of the city.

James wasn’t always such a soccer fan. Growing up in northern Delaware, he played several sports, including soccer, but favored baseball and football. His soccer fanhood was limited to the few game broadcasts he was able to catch on television.

It wasn’t until James returned home after college that he reignited his interest in the sport. That passion flourished when he joined a handful of fans to form Sons of Ben in 2006. Media coverage in FourFourTwo, a soccer magazine, and in Sports Illustrated, has helped the club grow to more than 5,500 fans.

“Once we got together, it became a movement, and it’s exciting to be in the stands for a game,” says the former Elon English major.

The Sons of Ben not only rally fans at the Union’s games, but the organization also raises money and collects canned goods to assist community agencies in Chester.

“He’s very well-organized and he runs the group like a real organization,” Nick Sakiewicz, co-owner of the Union, says of James. “It’s a group of people who have rules, a charter and have made themselves a registered nonprofit where they’re raising money for charities.

“They’re running the Sons of Ben like a business. People see that and they want to be a part of it because it’s something positive.”

It’s that businesslike approach that James hopes pays off for the committee organizing Philadelphia’s bid to be a U.S. World Cup host city. The last time the United States hosted the tournament, in 1994, Philadelphia missed out on the opportunity.

“In the past, there was a desire to spread these games out. Philadelphia got overlooked,” James says. “We have to make sure we don’t do anything that lets it slip through our hands this time.”

Learn more about the Sons of Ben at

UPDATE: FIFA International announced on Dec. 2, 2010, that Russia and Qatar would serve as hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, respectively.