[USA-MEXICO]It says a lot about how far American soccer has come that the Wednesday morning soccer news cycle centered on fans who'll be attending a match that won't take place for another 12 days -- specifically, who will or won't be in charge of the 9,000-strong supporters section for the USA-Mexico World Cup qualifier in Columbus, Ohio.
The American Outlaws supporters group issued a statement denying a report by Goal.com that stated the American Outlaws and U.S. Soccer had agreed on a Tuesday night conference call to put the fans from the AO Seattle supporters group in charge of the organizing AO sections at all matches and they'd have their expenses paid for by U.S. Soccer.
The report became the buzz in American soccer circles and was even picked up by the influential but tabloid Mexican sports daily Record with a headline "USA will pay fans' expenses for the duel against Mexico." (The inference of the headline: the U.S. Soccer can't fill the stands with U.S. supporters on its own turf for a match against Mexico.)
The story raised a host of issues, including just how closely U.S. Soccer and its organized fan groups work together, how the AO national leaders work with local chapters and how Seattle fans are perceived by others, and it also addressed the growing fan culture and role of organizers named capos and importance of tifos.
The statement from American Outlaws:
"AO Seattle [Seattle chapter of the American Outlaws] is not being tasked to take over the in-stadium experience for this or any future USMNT games outside Seattle. A Seattle takeover of tifo and singing at all USMNT games has never been the plan or intention and any reports of such are false. The tifo at this crucial qualifier will be organized and run by AO Columbus and local supporters."
What is true is the USA-Mexico game -- which marks the fourth Hexagonal in a row the USA has hosted Mexico at Crew Stadium and could be the match at which the USA clinches a berth in the 2014 World Cup -- is, as the American Outlaws state, "unprecedented with the size and scope of the supporter section" and "has created unique challenges."
The size of the group will require greater organization if fans in the section are to sing and chant in unison -- which is wear capos come in. The need for experienced capos grows as supporters sections have increased in size, as the American Outlaws stated.
U.S. Soccer has a strong interest in serving its most loyal fan base and helping them best execute their in-stadium activities: the tifo -- the banner that is unfurled before the start of the game -- and cheers. But it also has an interest in making sure there are not excesses: incidents in the stands and objects on the field, as well as the use of language. Making sure an allotment of tickets is made available for purchase for AO supporters is one thing -- tickets that could have otherwise been sold to the general public -- but paying the expenses of AO capos would be another.
Who those capos would be became the issue. Columbus fans? Fans from outside Columbus? And what about fans from Seattle, where soccer has the largest and most organized fan groups? (Seattle fans aren't necessarily looked upon highly by all fans from other parts of the country.)
The American Outlaws reached out to capos from around the country:
"We had several AO members step up and answer the call, offering to organize the supporters sections for this very important game. One of the members stepping up happened to be from Seattle. We have been looking for local and nationwide capos that can represent our nationally diverse section for years now."
The American Outlaws stated that Columbus fans would be charge of the USA-Mexico tifo and it hoped to have "main" capos organize the cheers -- a move to install some contunuity and structure to the AO approach to all national team games -- and 14 capos in total work in the section.
QUAKES FANS ARRESTED.Fans from an MLS supporters group were also in the news Wednesday as two San Jose Earthquakes fans -- Jennifer Marques, 29, and Uriel Vargas, 21 -- were arrested on charges of assault stemming from an incident that had taken place in Portland in April.
A grand jury indicted the pair, identified by police as members of the 1906 Ultras fan group, on charges of attacking a Timbers fan in his car before the game. The 1906 Ultras were placed on probation by the Quakes after the incident, and their travel privileges are still revoked.
Marques and Vargas face extradition to Oregon.