With more than 300 people at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille at 3 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon — all there to see the U.S. women’s national soccer team take on England in the World Cup semifinals — I had no idea how I was going to find the Queen City Outlaws.
I had been talking to representatives of the group over email but had never met any of them, so it could really be anyone, right?
Not so much.
In fact, a quick trip to the patio made things clear for me. A group of about 10 to 15 hardcore supporters stood facing the screen, most of whom had American flag bandanas or handkerchiefs wrapped around their heads in headband style. About five minutes into the game, as the women began attacking the England goal, the group launched right into a chant together, seemingly on queue.
Fittingly for the match they were there to see, the chant was sung in the Yankee Doodle tune: “C’mon U.S. score a goal, it’s really very simple. Put the ball into the net and we’ll go frickin’ mental.” (Frickin’ and fuckin’ were interchangeable, depending on who you were standing closest to at the time of the chant.)
And so I introduced myself to the Queen City Outlaws, a group of rabid soccer supporters that have been getting together to watch soccer games in Charlotte since 2010. They are the Charlotte chapter of a national fan club called the American Outlaws.
Earlier this year, the Q.C.O. moved watch parties from their long-time (but too-small) home at Hooligans in Latta Arcade to Dilworth Neighborhood Grille, and the response has been amazing, said Q.C.O. President Sarah Nesbitt on Tuesday.
“It’s pretty awesome because, generally speaking, we don’t see these type of numbers until right around this game or for a final for the women,” Nesbitt said, looking around at the packed house. “But we’ve had them consistently throughout the tournament. Even the match against Chile, which arguably was supposed to be an easy win for us, we had 180 people turn up, and that was on Fathers’ Day. We’re really excited to see the interest.”
Nesbitt guessed that some of it had to do with the recent poor performance of the men’s national team, while Q.C.O. Vice President Katie Hadley pointed out that word of mouth is also playing a big role in the turnout.
“I think that every time someone’s come they’ve had a very good experience here,” Hadley said. “Dilworth Neighborhood Grille has been amazing. People have a good time, and it’s a place that you can bring your family or you can come jump up and down and be rowdy with us.”
As you may already know, the women came away with the win on Tuesday, thanks in large part to the support from the Queen City Outlaws cheering from more than 4,000 miles away (or so I’d like to think after getting in on some of the chants) and will play in the World Cup final against Netherlands on Sunday at 11 a.m.
Nesbitt, Hadley and their crew will be there in flying colors, quite literally, with scarves, flags, bandanas and whatever else is needed to get the point across. They invite anyone regardless of their level of fandom to attend and watch the women fight for the Cup.
For Nesbitt, it’s more than a watch party, it’s a movement.
“If you grew up liking soccer in this country, you were kind of a weirdo, and so, the Outlaws provided that environment where all of a sudden you found all your other weirdos,” Nesbitt said. “Suddenly we’re not the weirdos anymore and the momentum has shifted and we’re not just 10 people cheering on at 3 o’clock in the afternoon; there’s 300 people cheering on at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. So it’s more than just a fan thing, it’s a community coming together and uniting behind the sport of soccer.”