News / USA

American Soccer Fans Boost US Team, Raise Sport's Profile

American Soccer Fans Boost US Team, Raise Sport's Profilei
June 12, 2013 10:45 PM
The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team is getting a boost in its campaign to qualify for next year's World Cup in Brazil, with wins against Jamaica last week and Panama on Tuesday (June 11). The U.S. men next face Honduras at a qualifier (in Sandy, Utah) in suburban Salt Lake City next Tuesday (June 18). A growing legion of American soccer fans has been supporting the team and have become increasingly organized and visible at bars and stadiums around the country thanks in part to efforts of a non-profit group called the American Outlaws. VOA's Michael Lipin joined the Outlaws at a friendly international earlier this month between the U.S. and Germany in Washington to see how they promote a love for soccer in a country dominated by other professional sports.
The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team is getting a boost in its campaign to qualify for next year's World Cup in Brazil.  

A growing legion of American soccer fans has been supporting the team as it scored crucial qualifying wins in Jamaica last week and at home against Panama on Tuesday in Seattle, Washington, before a crowd of nearly 41,000.  The U.S. men face Honduras in the next qualifier in Sandy, Utah in suburban Salt Lake City on June 18.

The team's fans have become increasingly organized and visible at stadiums and bars around the country thanks to the efforts of a non-profit group called the American Outlaws.  In one of their biggest mobilizations to date, the Outlaws recruited thousands of people to attend a friendly international between the United States and Germany in Washington earlier this month.

The night before the June 2 contest, hundreds gathered at the Laughing Man Tavern bar in downtown DC for the first of several pre-game parties, reuniting and exchanging stories with friends last seen at other soccer events.

The American Outlaws claim 7,000 paying members with branches in more than 80 U.S. cities, with the nation's capital being the largest.  Washington, DC chapter president Justin Coughlan said other branches may be small, but have big potential.

"The U.S. sees itself as this great superpower except when it comes to soccer, which is the world's game," said Coughlan.  "But the more people get into it and realize that there are other people that love it, it is going to get bigger and bigger."

Christian Allen said he set up an Outlaws branch in Greensboro, North Carolina, after several months of reaching out to local fans.

"If you get people to come to the bar and to see what we are all about and to see us chant for the USA, they really get hooked and excited," Allen said.

The excitement grew in the hours before the Germany game as more than 1,000 Outlaws and their friends joined a "tailgate" party in a parking lot next to RFK Stadium, which hosted the friendly.  Tailgating is a popular feature of other sports like American football and baseball, with fans indulging in burgers and beers to get into the mood for the action.

American Outlaws national president Korey Donahoo said many U.S. soccer fans feel like outsiders in a country where the media pay more attention to bigger professional sports.  

"Because soccer is not a mainstream sport necessarily, we thought 'American Outlaws' worked well for what we were trying to do," Donahoo said.

American soccer supporters also bond with each other through supporting a team that often is an underdog in the sport.

"For me, the biggest thing that sets it apart is that you see a guy in a U.S. jersey anywhere in the world and you can talk to him immediately and there is a sense of camaraderie," Donahoo said.

Chants of "USA, USA!" and "Oh When The Yanks Go Marching In" rang out as the Outlaws formed a procession from the parking lot to the stadium a half an hour before kickoff.  Inside, many of them filled up a special supporters' section in the rows nearest to the field, waving their scarves, banners and flags to make themselves as visible as possible to the players, and other fans.

The U.S. men ended the first half with a surprise 2-0 lead over Germany, thanks to a powerful volley from U.S. forward Jozy Altidore and an embarrassing own goal by German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

The second half began with Germany pulling a goal back through a Heiko Westermann header.  But Altidore set up U.S. captain Clint Dempsey to restore the home team's two-goal advantage, which grew to 4-1 on another Dempsey goal.

Germany scored twice in the dying minutes to keep the game close, but the U.S. held on for a 4-3 upset victory, thrilling Americans in the stands, both young and old.

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard (VOA - M. Lipin).U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard (VOA - M. Lipin).
U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard (VOA - M. Lipin).
U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard (VOA - M. Lipin).
U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard paid tribute to the overwhelming U.S. fan presence in the sellout crowd of 47,359.

"You know, to see a big massive stadium - a historic stadium for us, U.S. soccer-wise - to be filled and to play a team like Germany, it is special because we have not always gotten that," Howard said. "I think it is a testament to our supporters."

Second-half U.S. substitute Eddie Johnson said the national team also has benefited from the expansion of Major League Soccer, the domestic league in which he plays for the Seattle Sounders.

"Having more soccer-specific stadiums makes domestic players feel like we have a professional environment, where we feel like the sport is being more appreciated in America, and we feel more like professional athletes," Johnson said.

One of the most colorful U.S. supporters at RFK Stadium was a man dressed as superhero Captain America.

When asked what it will take for more Americans to catch on to soccer, he said the U.S. simply has to keep winning.

"You're not going to become a soccer fan overnight.  You've got to apply some dedication and love for it," he said.  "But soccer is great, because you're part of the game.  You don't just sit and watch."

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs