Friday, June 20, 2014
Madra Rua Pub erupted as the United States scored the go-ahead goal against Ghana in their World Cup opener Monday.
Beer rained from the air and chants of “U-S-A” thundered through the bar from the hundreds of fans embracing shoulder to shoulder in support of their team.
The U.S. National Team's following has perceivably blossomed over the past decade. Leading the local charge is a rowdy band of brothers dubbed the Holy City Outlaws, who wear their red, white and blue shield as proud as any.
The American Outlaws are a nationwide brotherhood of super fans that support the United States National Soccer teams with a feverish passion. They've been featured on ESPN and in the pages of Sports Illustrated. They lead the chants in the stands and sing the songs in the bars draped in USA jerseys and American flags. There are 144 official chapters nationwide with more than 50 new chapters added since September. When members travel into new cities from out of town, they're welcomed into the town's Outlaw chapter like members of an extended family.
Charleston's Holy City Outlaws became the 92nd chapter of the American Outlaws in September and is already thriving with well over 100 official members. Close to 50 new members have been added since February and president Mike Buytas says more are joining every day.
“It's a community of passionate people who like to have a good time,” Buytas said. “You feel comfortable right away. Everybody sings the same songs and has the same discussions. Just a large group of U.S. soccer fans celebrating their passion for the game.”
Buytas still remembers watching his first World Cup game while stationed on an Army base in South Korea in 1990. Just he and one other fan sat huddled over a small TV with rabbit-ear antennas. These days, with the growing popularity of U.S. soccer, especially locally, Buytas says fans have to show up early just to get into the local soccer bars that fill to capacity on game day.
With the early success of the U.S. team in this year's World Cup, local bars are preparing for even larger turnouts of official and unofficial American Outlaws as the games continue.
Madra Rua, the American Outlaws' official bar located in North Charleston, was full inside and out for the U.S. vs. Ghana game.
“So loud at one point I had to walk into the back hall,” bartender Brad Doggett said. “Super busy, high energy, tons of fans, red, white and blue everywhere.”
My Father's Moustache in Mount Pleasant had its highest sales day of the year and opened an outside bar to accommodate the overflow of U.S. fans.
“The vibe was amazing,” manager Aaron Pauole said. “It was insane. We had people blocks away on Rifle Range Road who said they could hear the cheering and chanting.”
The American Outlaws continue to absorb new members of all ages and backgrounds each week and welcome even the casual fan to join. Outlaws member Del Shaffer says soccer's increased visibility has raised its popularity in the U.S. and largely contributes to the increased support of the national teams. He says the U.S. teams are easy for American fans to support because unlike other leagues with separate conferences and divisions, the U.S. team brings together an entire country.
“Every single year, the sport is building in America and locally, and every year the fandom builds with it,” Shaffer said. “The Lowcountry already has a great base for soccer. The World Cup brings everybody together with the same passion and interest to celebrate as a community and a country. And that's really what the American Outlaws are about as well.”
Outlaw member John Lotterhos says it's that sense of pride that makes the Outlaws and the World Cup so special. Look closely in the U.S. fan sections at the games in Brazil and you'll see the Holy City Outlaws scarves waiving through the air. The Outlaws back home applaud their brothers in the stands the same way they cheer for their boys on the field.
“I love it. I love the sport. I love the World Cup. I love what it brings. I love the country coming together,” Lotterhos said. “I want everyone to fall in love with the game and welcome new fans to grow their passion with us. It's the closest thing to actually being brothers. There's a strong camaraderie. We're all in it together like a family.”