Just twelve months ago we were preparing to begin one of the biggest years in American soccer history and now we’ve come to the end of it.
In 2014 we travelled thousands of miles across the U.S., to Brazil and back, in support of our men’s national team. In 2014 we learned the U.S. women’s national team’s potential path to glory in Canada next summer. In 2014 we said goodbye to several American soccer legends and hello to a few that maybe come ones someday. In 2014 American Outlaws grew and grew, united a nation in “believing” and gave back to communities as well. Here are 14 events that made 2014 a year to remember.
We Went To Brazil
We marched through the streets of Natal. We held our own in the heat of Manaus. We stood toe-to-toe with the eventual champions in rainy Recife.
We told you “We are going to Brazil” and we came, saw, and left our mark at the World Cup. Over 500 American Outlaws travelled on our package and thousands of other members and fellow U.S. supporters joined us for an incredible experience following the U.S. men’s national team.
We painted the World Cup stadiums of Natal, Manaus, and Recife red, white, and blue while serenading our team with chants of “USA! USA! USA!”. It was a good summer despite its depressing end of the road.
You can relieve all of our adventures in Brazil at www.AOinBrazil.com and check out an exclusive video series made possible by Degree for Men. Seriously it’s super cool.
#WeGhanaWin (and we did)
Four long years we waited to return to the World Cup. The brutal path through CONCACAF qualifying, the Group of Death draw, and then the opening whistle. By 2014 the USMNT had been dumped out of two consecutive World Cups by the Ghanians.
We didn’t have to wait long for a response to back-to-back tournament heartbreaks. Clint Dempsey (captain Clint!), took just 29 seconds (including a couple of seconds clowning his defender) to get revenge.
And when the U.S. needed a second goal to secure a tournament-opening win it was youngster John Anthony Brooks to score late. We still don’t know who was more surprised at the strike; us or him.
Secretary of Defense (Tim Howard vs. Belgium)
If you’re going to go out of a World Cup at least go down fighting. There’s not much more that hasn’t been already said about Tim Howard’s performance against Belgium in the Round of 16. He single (double?) handily kept the USMNT alive in that match with a tournament record 16 saves. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, but even in defeat we can be proud that our American goalie had a historic performance that earned us international respect and even inspired Google’s #1 meme of 2014.
The explosion of the “I Believe” chant
Certainly one of the most interesting side stories of the summer of 2014 was how the “I Believe” chant took the nation by storm. What started out as a chant at Navy and spread through supporters in Major League Soccer became a rallying cry for U.S. soccer fans as we qualified and then competed in Brazil.
Whether or not the chant continues on in the AO song book is ultimately up to our members, but we saw it as accessible, optimistic, and fitting for a moment. No matter your feelings on the substance of “I Believe” this summer we sang with one voice and one anthem from New Orleans to Natal, Minneapolis to Manaus, Rochester to Recife and Seattle to Salvador.
Massive watch parties during WC14
And, of course, you heard the choruses of “I Believe” and “USA!” from coast to coast as our stateside AOs joined millions of others in support the men’s national team at the World Cup. All across the country fans sought out our chapter bars and outdoor viewing parties to watch the national team make their run in Brazil. To see so many fans clad in red, white, and blue at these events is a testament to all the hard work our local chapters put in everyday to make the American Outlaws the successful organization is it today.
Local AO chapters stepping up to support the USWNT
There’s no shortage of praise that we can heap on to our local chapters, but one of the other major points of pride is to see what these members have done to support our women’s national team as they prepared and qualified for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
From Dallas to open 2014 all the way to our WWC qualifying triumph in Philadelphia and all points in between our local chapters have carved out the beginnings of loud and passionate support for the USWNT that we’ll bring to Canada next summer.
WWC Draw (and AO in Canada)
If one “Group of Death” wasn’t enough in 2014 the USWNT drew 2.0 for the Women’s World Cup next summer in Canada. the United States women’s national team were put in the position to prove that they are the best of the best with their World Cup draw against Australia, Sweden, and Nigeria… arguably the toughest of next summer’s tournament.
While the group stages are the tournament’s toughest… America’s survived other so-called “Groups of Death” before. And getting out on top of this group also means a decent slate of knockout round matchups (if everything plays out accordingly) to the WWC finals.
From Winnipeg (vs. Australia and Sweden) to Vancouver (vs. Nigeria) all the way to the final (fingers crossed) American Outlaws will be behind our Lady Nats.
Very shortly we will have specific ticketing details (watch your email) for the group stage matches and later on flight, hotel, and event details so that you can support our women’s national team to their third World Cup title!
This year saw us break another chapter milestone passing the 150 mark. In October 2013 we celebrated chapter #100 (Wichita, Kansas). By then end of 2014 we’re 165 chapters strong! We’re just a few states away from all 50 having at least one official chapter.
And, of course, our growth doesn’t stop at the water’s edge!
Our first international chapter!
Chapter #150 happened to be our first international chapter, American Outlaws: London. It ended up being a nice coincidence that London was able to host traveling AOs for the Colombia friendly at Craven Cottage in November.
Expect that in 2015 we’ll open up chapters in more and more corners of the country and a few more on other continents (AO: Antarctica, anyone!?!?!)
New membership heights
As U.S. soccer grows so do the American Outlaws. Or is it as American Outlaws grows so does U.S. soccer? Probably six of one, half-dozen of another. 2014 was a big year for the growth of AO as a community.
It’s not the sexy side of soccer, but for AO we passed over 30,000 members in 2014 and, as previously mentioned, march our way towards 200 chapters. We released a cleaner, more user-friendly website, and opened a warehouse to accommodate all of the memberships and merchandise that such a large group needs to move now.
We even hosted a nation-wide FIFA tournament. Dozens of chapters, with free copies of FIFA World Cup 2014 from EA Sports, competed for prizes that included a custom AO XBox One!
We’re committed to providing the absolute best experience for American soccer fans wherever our national teams travel; from our network of discounts on apparel, flights, hotels, rental cars, tickets and more.
One of the greatest things we love to in the American Outlaws (besides cheering on our teams) is to give back to the communities we operate in and visit abroad.
In 2014 we continued our tradition of donating soccer balls on an away trip (we previously did so in Jamaica in 2013) when we visited a rural soccer club outside of Natal in Brazil.
Before we left for Brazil our send-off friendly against Nigeria in Jacksonville gave us an opportunity to present Operation Homefront with the proceeds of our AO Military scarf. Overall AO members raised $7500 for Operation Homefront in the first round of charity scarf sales. The drive was so popular we decided to run another batch of the scarves to continue to raise more funds for our activity-duty military, veterans, and their families.
You can purchase one (or more) here: http://store.theamericanoutlaws.com/product/ao-military-charity-scarf
As usual our incredible local chapters are leading the way in their communities across the nation. AO members have started local charity soccer tournaments, ball drops of their own, adopt-a-highway projects, and many other projects to give back. In Boston, for example, our local chapter started the American Outlaws Ball, a winter formal event, six years ago and this year’s edition raised almost $10,000 for American Scores, a national literacy-through-soccer program.
Farewell to a couple of USMNT legends
2014 saw us say “goodbye” to a number of USMNT players that had an effect on most of our formative years becoming American soccer fans. Of course Landon Donovan was the creme dela creme of this bunch, but save a bit of breath for a couple of other “legends” that signaled their retirement this year from soccer as a whole or at least the international game. This year we said goodbye to captain Carlos Bocanegra, “Rise and Shine”-r Jay DeMerit, the Beaz, DaMarcus Beasley, and Steve Cherundolo.
Each played a pivotal role in the growth of the game in the early 2000s and Beasley’s case through our most recent World Cup campaign.
Donovan’s farewell match in Hartford, Connecticut, organized by U.S. Soccer, was a chance for all of us in AO to say goodbye one last time. AO: Hartford came up big to pay tribute to the scorer of so many goals and inspiration for so many YouTube celebration videos after his crucial goal against Algeria in South Africa in 2010. Check out our #AOThanksLD tribute page.
The kids are alright
Even as we said goodbye to one generation of U.S. players we welcome another one on the horizon. Julian Green needed just one touch to become the youngest player in World Cup history to score a goal. DeAndre Yedlin will carry the banner of Yanks abroad when he joins Tottenham Spurs in January while Gedion Zelalem got fans in a twitter when he gained his citizenship and USMNT eligibility just a few days before the end of the year.
This year signaled a changing of the guard for U.S. soccer; a departure from the past and a look towards the future. This summer we’ll see our youth on display with the U-20 quest (if they qualify) in New Zealand and the Gold Cup in July. The road to Russia 2018 begins now.
And speaking of kids… AO is crafting their own “next generation” of soccer fans. This year saw the emergence of a two-year old (!?!?!) drummer from AO: Las Vegas leading the crowd in chants during the World Cup.
Looking forward to 2015
If 2014 wasn’t a big enough year 2015 promises to be just as massive. The USWNT take this turn on the world’s stage in Canada hoping to win their third Women’s World Cup and the men’s national team will complete again in CONCACAF’s Gold Cup with a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup on the line.
Our youth national teams will also compete globally with the U-20s men hoping to qualify (January in Jamaica) for their World Cup in New Zealand (June) and the U-17 men hope to qualifying for their World Cup in Chile (Oct/Nov) if they qualify in Honduras in February/March.
Additionally the men will face a tough start to 2015 in preparation for the Gold Cup. Matches away in Chile, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Germany promise to harden the squad before the crucial regional tournament.
Of course wherever the men and women go in 2015 we will follow!
Be sure to follow @AmericanOutlaws on Twitter, LIKE our page on Facebook, and check the new www.TheAmericanOutlaws.com for regular updates on travel, ticketing, and events for all these games in 2015 and beyond.
By Dan Wiersema