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The American Outlaws prepare for two World Cups in one year

Soccer is nothing without the fans. Traveling to games to be part of a collective; a group to support your team, whether it’s home or on the road. Fandom brings people together and breeds community, fostering relationships that may not have happened without the shared bond of sport. This is what the American Outlaws do best. 

Founded and still based in Lincoln, Nebraska, the American Outlaws is a supporters group for the United States national soccer teams. They help grow the soccer community among fans not just across the country, but around the globe. With more than 30,000 members, The Outlaws are amongst the largest organized supporters groups in the world, and they regularly send thousands of fans to games and organize viewing parties in bars and pubs.

Lincoln natives, Korey Donahoo and Justin Brunken are two of the three founders of the American Outlaws. Together with Ben Cohoon, the trio began the organization in 2007 to help bring fans together and celebrate the culture of United States soccer by hosting events and viewing parties. Since then, Donahoo and Brunken have continued to be involved with the Outlaws and now the former serves as Chairman of the Board while the latter is President. 

Admittedly, Lincoln doesn’t have the strongest soccer fanbase or soccer history, but those challenges actually helped the Outlaws as they began spreading across the country. Smaller cities often face issues finding a soccer bar or a place where soccer fans can congregate. As a result, being based in Lincoln allowed the Outlaws to better understand the issues that new chapters may face and helped overcome them.

“We’re in a place where we can create a blueprint for a bunch of different communities around the country,” said Brunken, “Since we grew up here, we understood the types of issues other groups were having.”

The Lincoln community also directly played a role in the Outlaws’ early success and growth, as many local companies lent a helping hand, from Archrival to Screen Ink.

“We worked with a lot of organizations around Lincoln that helped us, either consult, advise or actually do things with us as a small non-profit,” said Brunken, “I think there were just a lot of people that were willing to help.”

The implementation of local chapters in different cities was a key factor in the growth of the American Outlaws. This allowed the organization to grow organically in different markets across the world, in addition to flipping the traditional supporters group model on its head. 

Rather than each local chapter paying a membership fee to the Outlaws, the organization actually pays the local chapter for each member it has. For leaders who are mostly volunteers, this helps alleviate the costs associated with running each chapter such as merchandise, beer, or transportation.

In addition, the Outlaws sought to create engaging atmospheres and entertaining environments for every single United States match. They understood that most American soccer fans are not able to attend many games, as matches can be played anywhere from Columbus to Kansas City or even internationally as we will see in less than a month’s time. 

“One thing that set us apart was our consistency,” said Donahoo, “We’re gonna be there every game.”

“And we did,” added Brunken. “ We did it every single game, even if like four people showed up at the beginning, we were there. Now we have thousands of people.”

For the men’s World Cups in 2010 and 2014, the Outlaws saw their membership numbers double during both tournaments. In 2018, however, the United States failed to qualify, meaning the Outlaws had no tournament to promote or travel to. 

“It’s been hard!” said Donahoo, “No meaningful [men’s] games for a long time, but the women’s team was awesome and the France [2019 Women’s] World Cup was a saving grace.”

Now, after its eight-year hiatus, the USMNT is back at the World Cup and the Outlaws are prepared. Many American supporters will be in Qatar for the tournament but organizing events on the ground has been complex, to say the least.

“We had 3,000 of our members buy tickets to go to the World Cup,” said Brunken, “It’s just a totally different World Cup this time,” 

When discussing plans for the tournament in Qatar, Donahoo said, “They have made it very difficult for us.” Brunken added, “They made it impossible for us to be fans for this World Cup on the ground, for various reasons, which has been different than every other World Cup. It’ll be different for Australia New Zealand [the 2023 Women’s World Cup] where we’ll be able to do what we need. It’s gonna be amazing.”

As the men’s team has faded from the public eye since 2014, the support for the women’s team has grown immensely. It’s a change that can be felt both online and in the stands. 

“The France World Cup was incredible,” said Brunken. “We took over the streets of Paris! We had thousands in the streets marching and at our events, in France for the Women’s World Cup. I could see Australia New Zealand being even bigger."

Looking even further into the future, the 2026 men’s tournament presents a unique opportunity for the organization’s continued growth, with it being on US soil. As the Outlaws gain attention, many fans gravitate to the supporters group during the big games, but sometimes forget that the tournaments are a culmination of everything that preceded them. The goal for growth is centered around the organization’s mission, to show the value they have by growing the soccer community both in the stadium and outside.

“You can watch these three [World Cup] games, but our chapter bars are where you can watch games all the time,” said Brunken. “There's an opportunity to make sure that these other secondary markets can hold epic events where the city’s involved, the whole community is involved, and we help them create that, to bring in more fans and supporters.” 

“Those markets sometimes get forgotten,” Brunken continued, “I think we’ve proven from the American Outlaws and our chapters that there are amazing soccer networks and communities in all these cities and they deserve what these big cities have too, and we can help duplicate that."

Anyone interested in joining their local chapter can sign up at where new members will receive a new t-shirt and membership kit every single year, along with discounts on game tickets, and access to merchandise. As a non-profit, membership dues go toward transportation, tailgates and TIFOs on gamedays. From there visit your local chapter bar, which you can find on the website as well, and cheer on the USMNT this winter as well as the USWNT in 2023. 

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