BY JOSEPH SIMS
Seattle native Joseph Sims, 21, is traveling around the country during the World Cup in search of the heart and soul of soccer in the United States. Read about his journey in the Take 2 blog.
My first stop in Philadelphia is The Greeks, a pub in Narberth, a northwestern suburb, to meet with Sean, the secretary/membership officer of American Outlaws’ Philadelphia chapter, and Julian, the AO Philly vice president. After we take in an exciting Germany-Ghana game and eat a delicious cheese steak, the they take me around the Philadelphia area and show me the city’s soccer scene.
As we drive, talk turns to the organization they help lead: AO Philly. The chapter, founded in 2010, was headed at first by the original leaders of The Sons of Ben, the supporters group for the Philadelphia Union, which started playing in the same year the Philadelphia AO chapter was founded.
Problems were numerous. Joint membership with Sons of Ben and AO was tried, but there was little ambition to expand beyond the small bar where they met and membership lagged. The chapter wilted, becoming, as one of the national leaders said to Julian, “one of the worst chapters in the country.”
Change started when someone for AO nationals spotted Julian at the Crossbar, the American Outlaws Philadelphia bar at the time, recording a podcast for his website, thesoccerdesk.com. Impressed, the man asked Julian if he wanted to be in charge of social media for AO Philly. Julian accepted. Together, he and the new chapter president, a man named Greg, moved to a bigger bar. They settled on Fado, an Irish pub.
Fado is known across the country as being a soccer-friendly bar chain. Owners were eager to become the new American Outlaws bar in Philly, even offering drink and meal specials for members on U.S. game days.
Only a couple of people showed up for the first U.S. match of the 2013 Gold Cup, against Belize. But as the team progressed through the Cup, AO Philly resounded on Twitter and Facebook to get the word out about the USA’s performance. For the final of the competition (USA vs. Panama), the bar was packed.
“The chapter was back,” Julian said.
American success and a better bar helped attendance for American Outlaws events, but more work remained. Greg and Julian incorporated the chapter, making it an official non-profit company with the state, helping with liability issues and giving it a respectability with bars, the city, and potential members. Sean was recruited from the Crossbar pub to be the secretary/membership officer, and Greg’s wife Julia was brought on as treasurer.
After the club leadership was secured, it was time to start planning for the World Cup. Molly, Fado’s events coordinator was excited to help. Fado hosted watch parties for every game, and the AO chapter was able to work a deal with Fado, Misconduct (the soccer tavern across the street), the Philadelphia Union, and the city of Philadelphia to close down a section of Locust Street and put up a big outdoor TV for the USA’s game Portugal. The party was attended by at least 600.
Overall, Sean and Julian are happy with how far the Philadelphia American Outlaws chapter has come. The first two USA games have packed Fado. Membership is in the 400s. In the cradle of the American Revolution, the world’s game is flourishing.
Joseph Sims, 21, graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla in May with a degree in politics. The graduate of Roosevelt High School in Seattle has an obsession with soccer that has taken him all over the globe, from the World Cup in South Africa, to the Emirates Stadium in London, to the Sounders-Timbers rivalry right here in Seattle. Follow his journey around the country during the World Cup to find the heart and soul of soccer in the U.S. in the Take 2 blog.
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