When the United States Men's National Soccer Team took on tiny Antigua and Barbuda at Raymond James Stadium Friday, it was not what soccer fans call a "friendly."
"This is the first game that matters," said Mike Fera of the Tampa Chapter of the American Outlaws.
It was a first in a series of qualifying matches to determine if the team would make it to the 2014 World Cup.
"The road to Brazil starts right here in Tampa," Fera said.
And while there was action on the field, the show in the stands and the parking lot before the game was just as spirited.
The group making the most noise calls themselves the "American Outlaws."
"It's a supporters group for the U.S. National Men's team," Fera said.
And they like to get ready for their brand of football just like American football fans get ready, by tailgating.
"We basically brought that college football SEC south vibe to American soccer," Fera said.
The group represented fans from all over the country. Korey Donahoo came all the way from Nebraska.
"This the start of a long process to get to the World Cup. I like to be at every game I can and this is a big one, so it was worth the trip," Donahoo said.
And even as the Florida sunshine took a break, the "Outlaws" kept the party going.
"People love it, I don't know we would be having this much fun if it wasn't raining. Rain ain't gonna stop us, these colors don't run," Fera said.
They say the good time is all about getting behind the team and supporting the country on the "pitch."
"I love USA Soccer and it was the easiest thing to do to support USA Soccer," said fan Wes Henderson.
So how do these guys stack up? After all, soccer is a minor sport here in the U.S. David McCowen says you wouldn't know it if you spent any time at Raymond James Stadium Friday.
"It's really good, it's good for football here," McCowen said.
McCowen is originally from England, where soccer is king. He gives his American counterparts a big thumbs up.
"The atmosphere is brilliant. The way the guys dress is really football, they've got the spirit," McCowen said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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