“Everybody’s there for the love of the game and the passion behind it.”
–Paul Cox, treasurer of American Outlaws Raleigh U.S. National soccer teams fan group
by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Travis Long
No matter the time of day or day of the week, if a U.S. National soccer team is playing, a group of fans gathers at The London Bridge Pub downtown to watch. Affiliated with the American Outlaws, an unofficial national support group for American soccer, these fans watch men’s, women’s, and even youth national team games, from minor face-offs to important tournament matches. “It’s about being with other people who love supporting soccer and love supporting the United States,” says Jonathan Duren, Raleigh chapter vice president. “It’s phenomenal just to be able to get together. For most of us there, it’s not about the outcome, it’s about the community.”
The AO Raleigh chapter organized in 2008, putting it ahead of the game nationwide as the third chapter of what are now almost 200 local groups. Of AO Raleigh’s 150 members, many are players themselves who end up playing on local recreational soccer leagues and in pickup games together. They also gather for AO Raleigh cookouts and FIFA video game tournaments throughout the year.
This month, the group will be focused on gametime: “Summer gets crazy in a good way,” says AO Raleigh treasurer Paul Cox. There are a lot of games to follow: The Confederation of North and Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Gold Cup kicks off to determine the regional champion for North and Central America. “Group stages for the United States kick off on July 8 in Nashville against Panama,” Cox says. “July 12, July 15, those are really important games.” Anybody is welcome to join at London Bridge for a pint; AO Raleigh members stand out in their red, white, and blue paraphernalia, including scarves, jerseys, and American flag bandanas.
The group takes its love of soccer seriously on a local level, too. “There’s a great culture for soccer around North Carolina,” Cox says. “We love the North Carolina Football Club (N.C.F.C.) and the N.C. Courage. We’re there supporting those games, as well.”
Enthusiasm is not their weak suit. “We want to spread the passion,” Cox says. “You see the excitement, the love of the game. It’s contagious to everybody in the bar, or wherever we are.”