KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Following the loss to Panama in Tampa, Tuesday’s US national team match against Guadeloupe at Livestrong Sporting Park has become more than the final group stage game for the Yanks. For many members of the American Outlaws supporters group, this was always going to be a special match regardless of what was on the line.
With roots in nearby Lincoln, Neb., the group — often referred to as AO by its members — thinks of Kansas City as something of a spiritual home for the organization, which has more than 45 chapters around the country. For many, the trip to see the US play at the newly christened Livestrong Sporting Park was a pilgrimage.
“It was a long trip, but KC is great,” said Mike Fera during an Outlaws brunch the morning after their pub party at Johnny’s Tavern.
“Even though American Outlaws started in Chicago and the founders are from Lincoln, Kansas City is in some ways home base for AO. Some have been calling this trip ‘AO Homecoming,’” explained Fera, who hails from Tampa.
The group’s night-before-the-match party was an SRO affair replete with fans and soccer personalities from around the country, including a handful of Sporting Kansas City players.
“Our party was probably the best we’ve had since AO started doing these,” say AO Los Angeles chapter member Nick Bodmer. “We had close to 500 people on a Monday night and another 200 at Johnny’s for brunch this morning, so it’s been amazing.”
And Bodmer expects even bigger numbers come game time.
“We had people come in on their own from all over and had a bus of about 85 that came in from Lincoln in addition to all the locals from KC,” Bodmer said. “We sold 700 tickets and I’d say at least 600 were from out of town.”
For many of the locals, the convergence of the American soccer public on Kansas City has been a long time coming.
“It’s about time,” said Andy Edwards of Kansas City. “It’s been 10 years since we’ve had the [US national team] in Kansas City and we’ve had representation from KC at nearly every game around the country, so to have all these people come to our city and have a good time is long overdue.”
As for when the next big game will come to town, Edward doesn’t know, but he has high hopes that it won’t be 12 years from now.
“The new stadium is beautiful, so we hope this happens more regularly,” Edward said. “We think Kansas City become the new Columbus for the national team.”