The American Outlaws, an organization dedicated to supporting soccer in the U.S., hosted Hattiesburg’s first Gamer Cup at the Keg & Barrel Saturday.
EA Sports provided the Outlaws local chapter 135 with Xbox One consoles to host its first participation in the third annual FIFA gaming national tournament.
“We support the men and the women’s team,” said Justin Schmidt, Hattiesburg chapter president. “Basically, the more we can get the U.S. into soccer, the better our team will get.”
Schmidt oversaw the local tournament and said the winner of each chapter will go to the national championship, and the winner of the championship will play against a U.S. player or a former U.S. player. Tournament winner Drew Lick will play in a national competition May 6.
Other prizes included an official American Outlaws stein and copies of FIFA 2016 for the Xbox One. There was also a drawing for gift cards, and nationally, all participants are entered into a raffle for an Xbox One and PS4.
“I feel good, because it was a good game,” Lick said. “It was especially difficult, as he was using one of the best teams in the league. I really don’t know what to expect [at the championship], but I’ll play some more. I’ll play a lot to get ready for it.”
Keg & Barrel owner John Neal said the bar is an officially licensed American Outlaw bar and has the merchandise to prove it.
He expressed his support for the game and for the local chapter while discussing plans of future events.
“We are huge soccer supporters, so it’ll be something if they continue, we will continue for sure,” Neal said. “If they don’t, we’ll sure consider it.”
The American Outlaws are raising the question of why soccer is undervalued in the U.S.
In a 2014 study by Reuters, two thirds of Americans opted to not watch the World Cup, and 86 percent of Americans know nothing or almost nothing about the World Cup. This shows that the U.S. is generally disinterested in the globe’s favorite game.
According to the American Outlaws website, the organization derives its name from this disinterest: “When we started bringing soccer fans together to watch soccer and travel to US games in Nebraska (not known for soccer), we were part of an outlier group of sports fans, in a sea of American football, baseball and NASCAR fans.”
A brief report from the United States Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs said soccer’s popularity is growing and almost every kid in America is enrolled in some kind of youth soccer program.
Even though the majority of kids are in youth soccer, the adults still do not follow the sport. The American Outlaws aim to address adults’ lack of involvement.
The organization has further events planned in the coming months.