Back in 2007, there was a group of friends at the University of Nebraska looking to watch soccer games and cheer on the US National Teams with the same passion that Huskers everywhere cheer for their football team. What began as the simple goal of gathering enough people to get the local bar to turn the sound on for soccer games, has become the face of the soccer fan revolution in the United States. Over a couple of pints, high-fives, and cheers for the Red, White, and Blue – The American Outlaws were born.
For years, players on the United States Men’s and Women’s National teams were admittedly well-aware of the lack of a home field advantage. There was no unification, no centralized communication, and seemingly no passion from American fans. Despite the fact that soccer is the 3rd most popular sport played in America behind only basketball and baseball/softball, the fan base was made up primarily of family and friends of the players themselves. Sure, a spotlight shone on the teams every couple of years during the World Cup, but that light quickly dimmed after the tournament was decided.
Soccer has been around in the United States since back when we still called it “football” like the rest of the world does today. In 1869, the first match was played between Princeton and Rutgers with each team fielding 25 players. Eventually this game was transitioned into rugby, which in turn became American Football. So in a way, Americans have soccer to thank for the invention of football, and to avoid confusion, the word soccer came into the lexicon somewhere between the years of 1910-1920.
The American Football Association (AFA) was started in 1884 as one of the first governing bodies for organized play. The AFA grew enough to warrant the competition of another new organization, the American Amateur Football Association (AAFA) with each applying to membership with FIFA in 1913. After acceptance into FIFA there was some reorganizing of the different factions to become the United States Football Association, or United States Soccer Federation as it is still known today.
Soccer’s popularity grew again in the 1960’s with the introduction of an NCAA Championship in 1959 and the sport itself boasted 100,000 players nationwide. Soccer again saw growth in 1972 with the passage of Title IX and by 1984 had over 4 million Americans enjoying the game. In the 1984 Olympics, five soccer matches had over 75,000 people in attendance at the Rose Bowl with another 2 games hosting over 100,000 people. Just 30 years earlier, this number that represented the entire playing population of the United States. That same year, more US colleges had a soccer program than a football team.
The staggering attendance figures from the Olympics led FIFA to award the 1994 World Cup to the United States, again putting soccer at the forefront of the minds of kids across the country. Though professional leagues had been established in the past, the birth of Major League Soccer (MLS) in 1996 again contributed to the growth in this country. As of 2006, the United States is the #1 country in the world for participation in youth soccer. Thanks to these youth programs, the continued expansion of the MLS, and the tremendous success of both the Men’s and Women’s US National Teams, soccer continues to thrive. Current estimations range from 13 million to 24 million players in the United States.
Despite all of this amazing history of this game in the United States, there has never been a unified rooting interest. No central unit of fandom. No place to call home when rooting for US Soccer. The fans have always been here, but the sound has not been on. The American Outlaws have again turned up the volume.
What began as a group of friends at the pub has become a movement over 30,000 strong in support of United States Soccer. Outlaw Chapters have spread from the birthplace at Captain Jack’s in Lincoln, Nebraska across the pond to London, England. There are 175 Chapters worldwide and over 197,000 people are fans of the American Outlaws on Facebook.
No detail is overlooked. Contrary to their namesake, The Outlaws do everything the right way. TheAmericanOutlaws.com is loaded with information about the schedules of the US National Teams as well as ticket options and discounted travel packages – including airline and hotels. But they don’t stop there. Everything that you need to know about United States Soccer is on the American Outlaws website. There are links to the local chapters around the country, as well as membership registration, schedules of events, parties, an impressive online store, and the AO Code of Conduct that asks members to “Act Above” as they are in fact a part of something bigger than themselves.
We Americans may be new at this, but with a hundred and fifty years or so of practice, we are in the middle of a soccer revolution – and we do know a thing or two about hosting a good revolution.
Annual membership to the American Outlaws is $25 and includes an ultra-high-quality American Apparel t-shirt, as well as an American Flag bandana to show your allegiance and unify members. Members also receive discounts on a number of online soccer retailers as well as other fantastic benefits, but the truly intangible advantages aren’t available in any online store.
$25 also includes the pride that you will feel in being a part of this movement. It covers the priceless atmosphere of friends and family for every game. Your $25 goes towards the continued progression of American soccer and being able to tell your kids about being there from the beginning. It goes towards the stories of heroes like Wambach, Dempsey, Chastain, and Donovan. Most importantly, the $25 goes towards promoting the unification of a fan base and of a country that will continue to let our United States National Soccer Teams know that Where They Go, We’ll Follow.
It is time for the American sports fan to stop making excuses and stop feigning ignorance of the game of soccer. Revise your bucket list and make certain that “Attend a US National Team Game as an American Outlaw” is on it. Pick a match and some tickets, learn the words to the songs, take a road trip if you need to, and dress like you’re going to a 4th of July Party at Thomas Jefferson’s house.
Finding friends and family to join in this unforgettable adventure is no longer an excuse, but perhaps the very reason for us all to be taking part in the first place.
And for that, we all have The American Outlaws to thank.
Unite and Strengthen.