COLUMBIA — The only thing more deafening than the uproar at the end of the U.S. vs. Ghana World Cup match at McNally's on Monday night was the racket that erupted when America scored during the first minute of play.
"I can't believe it!" someone shouted amid the stomping and cheering.
The fans at McNally's whooped and chest-bumped for every slick move the U.S. made during the 2-1 march toward victory in America's first 2014 World Cup appearance.
The crowd was so amped up, there were cheers for patriotic faces in the stands and even for a brief shot of Vice President Joe Biden that flashed on the screen.
Many of those at McNally's belong to Columbia's biggest soccer fan club, the American Outlaws. With more than 50 dues-paying members, the club meets year-round to rally support for Team USA, whether at a game or in a bar.
"Our mission is to bring love of soccer to higher and higher levels. To support the passion and unity of soccer fans," the chapter's president and founder, Patrick Finney, said.
The over-capacity, one-in-one-out crowd on Monday was about "four times" the crowd the Outlaws usually have at a watch party.
"It's hard to be a passive soccer fan," treasurer Kara Moran, said. "You have to make an effort."
Chanting for nearly 90 full minutes of play is one of the chapter's most cherished rituals. In fact, the steady chants on Monday gave the bar a last-day-of-summer-camp vibe.
"We probably have around 20 to 30 chants and songs," said Vice President Nik Hargis, who has become unofficial chant leader and carries a small drum to set the pace.
The Outlaws' Facebook page is full of upcoming events, most held at McNally's Irish Pub on North Sixth Street, which the group considers its "home tavern." Every event is open to the public, and they go all-out to convert modest supporters into the faithful.
The Outlaws belong to a national organization that has 125 chapters and 18,000 members in 44 states. Started in 2007 in Lincoln, Neb., the founders chose a name that underlines the sport's place in American culture, according to the organization's website.
In a country where baseball, football and basketball rule, these soccer fans often feel like they have to fight for access and respect for the sport.
But every four years, the American Outlaws are at the center of soccer fandom — 31 days of nonstop matches during the FIFA World Cup. The chapter invites everyone in town to join them at McNally's for watch parties during Team USA games.
"The best way I can explain it is take March Madness, couple it with the passion and spectacle of the Super Bowl," Finney said.
"I couldn't take it every year."
The Columbia Outlaws chapter was founded in 2012 and was officially recognized by the national organization on July 4. Members include men and women, college students, school teachers and business professionals.
Some join out of a lifelong love of soccer and sports or a history of playing soccer competitively. Hargis, for example, played competitively until the eighth grade.
Others, like Finney, appreciate the dedication of the fans and the drama of the game. Still others said they belong because they are inspired by the soccer culture.
"It's the only time where the whole country is rooting for the same team," Moran said. "It's intense and there's a sense of 'do or die.' As an American, it's not often that you're the underdog."
Monday's win against Ghana gave many of the Outlaws encouragement for the future of Team USA at the World Cup. Ghana pushed the U.S. out of play during the last two World Cups.
The U.S. has two more guaranteed matches to see if it qualifies for the next round. After the three games of group play, the two teams with the most points advance. In the event of a tie, advancement is determined by goal differential.
The United States is playing in a group that includes Ghana, Germany and Portugal. Portugal suffered a decisive 4-0 loss to Germany on Monday.
"This game makes us believe that we cannot only advance, but make some noise in the quarters," Hargis said.
Next up for the Americans is a match at 5 p.m. Sunday against Portugal, followed by the final game of group play on June 26 against Germany. The American Outlaws will hold parties at McNally's for both games.
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.