It happens every year: whether clubs are refurbishing their stadiums (as Liverpool is doing with Anfield) or planning wholesale moves to new ones (like AC Milan, who are preparing to leave San Siro once they've built a new venue), some fans decry the decisions as desecrations of club identity. It's not difficult to see why. Over the years, a stadium truly becomes a part of a football club, just like players, jerseys, and fans do. But why do football stadiums earn this kind of attachment from fans and players alike when they are really just venues or stages for the games and moments that will truly define a club's legacy?

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Why Football Stadiums Matter

The connections that fans have with their favorite team's stadium can also bleed onto the field and affect the players. For soccer teams themselves, the "home" feel of their team's stadium has less to do with the actual venue, and more to do with the supporters. The advantage of playing at home comes from the presence of adoring fans, whose cheers and support can give players extra adrenaline and "will to win" that they might not necessarily find at another club's venue.

For example, when the legendary Steven Gerrard closed out his time at Liverpool this past spring, he was heartbroken to know he wouldn't be playing at Anfield again, and that sadness came from knowing he'd be leaving his fans.

"I've been dreading this moment, I will miss it so much," Gerrard said after his last-ever appearance at Anfield. "I have loved every minute and I am devastated that I will not play in front of these supporters again."

Soccer Stadiums and Club Identity: Teams Defined by Where They Play

Liverpool are just one of the club's whose identity is linked inextricably with their stadium, but they are a good team with which to start the discussion about how stadiums influence club identity. Anfield, first built in 1884, is one of the smaller "legendary stadiums" in Europe, but it makes up for its smaller capacity (currently 45,276) with atmosphere.

When the Reds don the Liverpool home jersey 2015 2016 at Anfield this year, they'll instill fear in the hearts of their opponents, not because they've been a Premier League powerhouse lately, but because there is never any doubt about who has the edge at Anfield. From the fans, who shout choruses of "You'll Never Walk" alone at every game, to the signs (banners proclaiming "THIS IS ANFIELD" hang in the tunnels leading to the pitch), Liverpool's home stadium is the kind of ground that can pulverize visiting teams before the game has even started. Unsurprisingly, when a plan was proposed in 2002 to replace the stadium, it was quickly shot down.

On the other end of the spectrum in the Premier League is Manchester United's Old Trafford, which, with a 75,000-person capacity, is the biggest club football stadium in England. Where Anfield's atmosphere reflects Liverpool's status as a rough-and-tumble bunch of underdogs, Old Trafford really feels like the home of the biggest and most powerful soccer clubs in the world. Nicknamed the "Theatre of Dreams," Old Trafford is a great place to see a game for any soccer fan, but has a special resonance for Red Devils fans.

The list of stadiums that are a part of their clubs' DNA could go on and on (and on and on). For instance, we would be remiss not to mention Spanish strongholds like Santiago Bernebeu Stadium and Camp Nou-huge venues that provide fitting stages for all-time greats like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. And what about Bayern Munich's color-changing Allianz Arena, or the beautifully designed (and still brand new) Juventus Stadium? Bottom line, a soccer club is only as great as its stadium, and there are a lot of great stadiums out there.

What's your favorite venue to see a football game, either because of the atmosphere, the design, or your own fandom for the club that calls that stadium home? At Soccer Box, we want to hear your picks, so find us on social media to share in the discussion! You can find us on Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr.