Join MLSsoccer.com’s Jackie Pickering and Nick Firchau as they travel from LA to Vancouver, checking in on all the West Coast teams, meeting with fans, and stopping into adidas HQ in Portland to pick up the game ball for First Kick on March 15 at Qwest Field.
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LAS VEGAS – When it comes to conventions, seminars and trade-shows, there is no place more coveted or appropriate than Las Vegas. America’s playground in the desert has enough hotel rooms and meeting space to meet any organization’s needs and, perhaps crucially, enough entertainment options to satisfy almost any of its memberships vices.
So although supporting the US men’s national team isn’t exactly the type of interest that typically lands one in the group-outing mecca, could there be a more a more fitting destination to host the inaugural American Outlaws Rally? And how exactly did a gathering of 85-plus supporters from 46 chapters come about without a match?
According to American Outlaws vice president and founding member Justin Brunken, it was the foot soldiers, not the founders, who brought it about.
“We listen to our members and they wanted to get together, get energized and discuss and share ideas with all the other members,” the Lincoln, Neb., native told MLSsoccer.com, “so that’s what we did.”
“That’s just kind of our style,” he said with smile. “Where else would AO go? We party at every game and at every event that we do and Vegas is the ultimate party city.”
While the two-day event featured plenty of time for casinos, pubs and clubs, the guest speakers and breakout seminars were an equal draw for those making the weekend trip to Sin City.
With guest speakers like Alexi Lalas, a preview of upcoming soccer film Laduma and panels and presentations on everything from chapter marketing to charity work, the rally featured an impressive selection of attractions.
Interestingly, the attractions were just as equally taken with the Outlaws. Guest speaker and noted soccer journalist Grant Wahl has kept an eye on the group and was quite complimentary of the young but notable institution.
“I’ve always been impressed with how they’ve been able to organize American soccer fans all over the country,” said the longtime Sports Illustrated writer. “They have good representation, not just at the big US games, but at every US game. It’s an exciting group and it’s growing.”
But like any good Vegas business trip-cum-boondoggle, it always comes back to having a good time.
“It’s the best, it’s a blast,” said Phoenix-based AO member and Columbus Crew fan Nate Beckman. “It’s a bunch of young people who’ll go anywhere to support the team, and we’re having a blast doing it.”
So will the Rally return? Probably not next year, but if Brunken has his way it could become a semi-annual event on the American soccer calendar.
“From the feedback we’ve received it looks like people enjoyed it and hopefully we can do it every two years,” said Brunken. “The more we can grow this, the more we can grow US Soccer.”
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