Photo courtesy of American Outlaws Mobile Chapter
The United Soccer League’s new third-division league aims to provide passionate soccer fans in new markets across the nation with a proven professional experience, as multiple cities currently without a professional team – such as Mobile, Alabama – have shown a strong interest in the sport.
Steven Short, USL’s Division III Vice President, has visited multiple Southeast and Midwest cities since April 2, and the league has also been in discussions with more than 40 markets regarding a potential professional team.
In Mobile, soccer support has soared in the past decade, as the American Outlaws Chapter was officially registered in 2013 and regularly sees around 100 people attend viewing parties at O'Daly's Irish Pub – and on some occasions close to 200 people. The support the chapter has shown for the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams has also carried over to their local amateur team as well, as members of the chapter have helped AFC Mobile and its supporters’ group – Causeway Rebellion – achieve eye-opening success in 2017.
“A team that should get no more than 200 people at games easily gets 800-plus,” said Denson White, Board Chairman of the American Outlaws Chapter in Mobile. “People in Mobile are proud of their sports, and if a good product is provided, then the people will come out to support.
“We were all surprised by the 1000-plus people attending the AFC Mobile matches,” he added. “It is obvious that people are excited. It helps that youth in Mobile have grown with soccer teams in their high schools since the 80s, as most of Alabama did not have high school soccer until well into the 2000s. The University of South Alabama routinely draws large crowds to their successful women’s program as well. I would not say there is any magic, just that people in Mobile have had a following for some time.”
Michael Lynch, who currently serves as the chapter’s treasurer, is a founding member of AFC Mobile, which kicked off its first competitive season this year. Chapter Vice President Keath Kaufmann is the founder of the Causeway Rebellion. Both Lynch and Kaufmann, as well as White, have been a couple of the key driving forces for soccer growth and support in the city in recent years, and they see the potential for even for opportunity as the interest in the sport continues to rise in the area.
“Having a public support group allows fringe fans to go to a web site and search out others that they can watch with,” White said. “A group of us are huge viewers of English Premier League, which led us to form the first club official supporter group in the state of Alabama. In just a few months of being public, we started getting people from Pensacola and New Orleans reaching out to come join our watch parties.
“O'Daly's opens every Saturday morning at 6 a.m. for European soccer viewing. Our kids’ academy locations in Mobile and Baldwin counties are over-flowing. Baldwin County just completed a soccer complex in Fairhope. Gulf Shores already has top facilities. Mobile just improved a park with three turf fields and is adding more this winter. It is really all coming together in this region.”