SANDY — USA and Venezuela played to a 1-1 draw at Rio Tinto in an international friendly Saturday. The friendly competition was not confined to the field though, as 17,315 fans took turns cheering for their countries.
A particular group of American fans, clad in shirts, flags and anything red, white and blue, the "American Outlaws," created a true distinction at the game, though. They believed.
The Outlaws, known for their "I believe that we will win" chant, came out in droves to Rio Tinto, with people joining from all around the country. They are the official fan group of the U.S. Men's and Women's National teams, and have a group of fans at every event.
The group stood up, offered undying support to the team, and led chants for American fans to follow for the full 90 minutes.
Brian Hexson, an original founder of the Outlaws in 2007 and the head of events for the group, said it is a way for both new and die-hard fans to enjoy the game of soccer with everyone.
“We always do this before every USA game, have a night-before party, and have food and a good time on game days tailgating before the match," he said.
The tailgate is where hundreds of members and American fans join to grill and sing American chants together and take part in a large-scale march into the stadium together before kick-off.
For Kelly Anders, a Connecticut native entrenched in the tailgate at Rio Tinto, the Outlaws were the real reason she got into soccer in the first place.
"I never thought there would be much cheering for U.S. soccer," she said. "You see how much spirit countries like Brazil or Spain have for their teams, and we have so many more people than them, so why shouldn’t we have an awesome fan group?”
To come from thousand of miles away is a strain on certain members' lives, but for loyal members like Hexson, the sacrifice of taking time off work and spending money on travel is well worth it.
Hexson works full time in Lincoln, Nebraska, but makes sure he is able to take time from his job to be able to attend every game, both men's and women's.
“It’s all in our free time, but it’s something I like to do, so it’s important to me to come out to these games and support the team.”
Another official Outlaw member, BYU Idaho student Ian Archibald, says he appreciated the inclusivity of the Outlaws, and said that particularly in Western American stadiums, like Rio Tinto, the camaraderie of fans is unmatched in other sports.
"It’s super positive, and it’s really like a family. You don’t know anybody around but as soon as you see an American Outlaws shirt, everyone makes you feel really comfortable," he said.
These qualities make the Outlaws an easy sell, and the official group has grown to almost 30,000 fanatics, according to Hexson.
Archibald said two qualities will influence how much the Outlaws can expand — MLS success and exposure of American players on international teams.
“I think it starts with MLS, which is getting a lot bigger in the states. The better the league and competition gets there, the more people will get into soccer in general, and it starts a big cycle, especially when guys like (Christian) Pulisic are playing in big clubs internationally. There’s a whole new generation of kids who are going to love it, and that’s huge.”
The U.S. National Team plays its next game against Trinidad and Tobago in a World Cup qualifier Thursday in Colorado, and there will surely be a contingent of the Outlaws there to support their guys.
"You bet I'll be there, I wouldn't miss it," Anders said.