Should The American Outlaws be seeking to standardize support?

Jamie Sabau

The number of people wanting to cheer with United States national team supporters has never been larger, but there's a worthwhile debate to have whether that requires the culture to change.

As the dust appears to be settling over the whole "Seattle is taking over American Outlaws" thing, it's probably a good time to take a step back. First off, I think we can reasonably dispatch the idea that anyone is intending to literally allow a single chapter in the Northwest to stage a coup. At the very least, American Outlaws is vehemently denying allegations that anything like this is happening.

What they aren't denying and what actually appears to be happening, though, is something that deserves a lengthy discussion. By all reports, American Outlaws is attempting to export some of what we saw in recent months in places like Kansas City, Portland and Seattle to other venues. In those locales, the supporters sections were well organized and relatively unified, resulting in coordinated chanting and singing as well as some very impressive tifo.

While none of this is new at the club level, until recently the national team has not received the same kind of support. To be clear, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Places like Columbus have proven quite capable of creating an intimidating and pro-United States environment without all the trappings of what we saw in, say, Seattle. On the other hand, we've seen a lot more examples where the lack of coordinated support resulted in far less intimidating atmospheres.

No one seems to be dying to go on the record right now, but from what I've gathered American Outlaws -- with some help from the USSF -- have decided to make a concerted effort to create a more uniformed experience at venues all around the country. Is that a good thing? I honestly don't know.

What I do know is that the USSF is becoming more and more willing to distribute large swaths of tickets through their supporters. In Columbus, for instance, about 9,000 of the 22,000 tickets are going to supporters and the vast majority of those are going to American Outlaws. It makes sense that USSF wants to make sure that those people have some level of organization. It also makes sense, in a big picture, that the USSF would like to feel as though they are playing actual home games when they are playing in the United States. A more organized effort could surely help accomplish that.

But I can't begrudge locals for feeling as though their toes are being stepped on in situations like this. As Massive Report recently explained, the supporters culture in Columbus does not involve capos and tends to be less coordinated. It would make sense, then, that no one from the existing Columbus supporters groups was throwing their hats into the ring to be part of American Outlaws national search for capos, which seems to be one of the things at the heart of this situation.

On the other hand, while the quadrennial qualifying match against Mexico has become a Columbus tradition, we should keep in mind that this is still the nation's team. While Columbus has done a great job turning this into an absolute must-attend event, I understand why American Outlaws and USSF feel as though they have a lot of jurisdiction here. Many of those 22,000 fans -- and probably an even higher percentage of those 9,000 supporters -- are coming from places other than Ohio to see the game and American Outlaws' efforts to grow the ranks of supporters is a huge reason why.

While there was nothing wrong, per se, with the way Columbus has been in the past what we're seeing in the size and scope of the supporters section is simply unprecedented. USSF didn't just decide to give all those tickets to supporters because they knew they'd get sold, those tickets were never in danger of going unclaimed. What they are clearly hoping to see is something bigger and even better than what has happened in the past. It's a gamble to be sure and, as evidenced by the reaction of the locals, could totally end up blowing up in their face.

One way or another, we're going to learn a lot about the state of supporters culture in the United States in the next couple weeks. If you're so inclined to see the bright side of things, maybe it's a good thing that there's enough national interest in the USMNT that this is even an issue to begin with. But we're definitely going to experience some growing pains, regardless of how this plays out. This could very well chart the course for the future of American support: Does it remain as varied as our nation (with its lows and highs) or does it become more uniformed? It might be time to decide.

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