American Outlaws spread soccer zeal across the country

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In 2007, three soccer fans from Lincoln, Nebraska, devised the idea to create a nationwide fan club for the U.S. men’s national soccer team. At first, it was just those three fans who made up the club.

Now as the 2014 FIFA World Cup is underway in Brazil, the fan club better known as the American Outlaws has more than 125 chapters and 18,000 members across the country, including one in Wilmington.

“The interest across the country started really popping up with last summer’s Gold Cup,” Matt Riggsbee, president of the Wilmington American Outlaws, said.

The Wilmington chapter, which is small but growing, officially opened in November 2013, just in time for the end of World Cup Qualifying. More than 50 Wilmington residents are official members, and the Facebook page has more than 250 likes.

Riggsbee said people vacationing in Wilmington contacted him about watching the games for the 2014 World Cup.

The American Outlaws chapters across the United States have many responsibilities, and view themselves as vital to U.S. soccer because of the size and diversity of the country.

Nations like Germany and Spain will play in the same arena for every game, but the U.S. national team travels all across the United States for its home games.

Because of this, the local chapters are responsible for organizing viewing parties and travel plans for fans attending U.S. soccer matches. The Wilmington chapter recognizes the Courts and Sports Bar on Lancelot Lane as its official viewing location.

“I talked to a lot of bars all over town about doing this, but Courts and Sports were the only ones who offered to not only televise the game, but promised that there would be sound along with it. It made the deal,” Riggsbee said.

More than 100 fans packed Courts and Sports Monday, June 16 for the United States’ opening game of the World Cup. The atmosphere was electric as spectators witnessed the Americans capture a 2-1 victory over Ghana.

The Wilmington chapter is also making a point to start traveling and attending more games in person. It sent eight members to Jacksonville for America’s final tune-up game before the World Cup. One member of the Wilmington Chapter will be in Brazil for the team’s final two group stage games on June 22 and 26.

The American Outlaws’ mission is clear: to expand and develop the passion for soccer in the United States. The Wilmington chapter might be small, but its members believe it is only a matter of time before it begins to make an impact.

“We are important. For whatever reason, U.S. soccer has not taken off as many soccer fans would have liked,” Riggsbee said. “But that doesn’t mean it will always be this way. Wilmington is a small city, but with the Hammerheads it is also a soccer city. This was just the next step.”

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