Local fans unite the love of American soccer in Birmingham

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The beginning of a movement starts with the action of one.

For David Van Landingham, it was writing an article for Free Beer Movement

“I wrote an article for them, talking about the beer and soccer movement in Birmingham. I put my Twitter handle and my email address in there. People started getting in touch with me.”

With that article, David was reaching out to other people like him.

“The 2010 World Cup, I was sitting on my couch, watching it by myself and thinking, ‘I would love to have somebody with me, who loves the sport, who knows the sport.'”

Derek Johnson was just like David.

I used to watch soccer by myself. I didn’t know this was out here.”

“This” is the American Outlaws, a supporter’s group for the United States Men’s and Women’s National Soccer teams that has localized chapters across the country.

Through the first six years of the group’s existence, Birmingham didn’t have a chapter. However, there were members of the organization on the national level throughout the Magic City. Van Landingham was one of them.

“My story’s like a lot of other guys. We independently became members and wondered, ‘How do we become a chapter?’ You need 25 paid members and a home bar.”

So he got to work, creating the Twitter account AO_Bham, writing the article, and getting feedback.

Ballard Jones was one of those guys who got in touch with Van Landingham.

“I found David and Derek on Twitter, which is slightly odd, but that’s kind of how it wound up.”

Jones, Johnson and Van Landingham began meeting for matches, posting their location on Twitter, and waiting…hoping…there were even more people out there like them.

And there were.

People started spreading the Twitter handle,” Van Landingham said. “As soon as one person met two, two became four, four became eight…”

“Just posting it out there and letting everyone bring their friends, that’s been the key,” said Johnson.

The group grew, and as World Cup Qualifiers began in February, Birmingham’s outlaws of the American sporting culture settled on Good People Brewing Company as their place to congregate, to cheer, and to unite.

Over the next four months, the crowds got larger, the paid member contingent got bigger, and the follower count got higher.

By May, Van Landingham, Johnson and Jones had found their 25 paid members. They had found their home bar. They had founded American Outlaws Birmingham, the 83rd chapter of the national organization.

“It’s a prideful moment knowing the work I put in with my other guys, that we’ve spread the word, but we’re still building,” Van Landingham, President of the organization, said.

The group currently has around 75 paid members, but crowds reach triple digits for most matches.

“It’s been really amazing. It started as a really small seed and it’s grown like a weed,” said Jones, the group’s Vice President.

“Watching it with 100 people who think exactly the same way, you can’t beat this,” said Johnson, Treasurer of American Outlaws Birmingham, during the watch party for the match against heated rival Mexico. “Anybody who watches one game with us would definitely want to watch more. (It’s) much better than watching in your basement.”

With two more Qualifiers in October before World Cup 2014, American Outlaws Birmingham continues to grow, continues to cheer, and continues to seek out those who don’t know of their existence.

They continue the movement now united as one.

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