At 8:30 a.m on Monday, Zach Holman sat in McTeague’s Saloon in Polk Gulch, a can of Suerte Lager in his right hand, wearing a U.S national soccer team jersey and a star-spangled banner bandana tied around his neck.
Andrew Zimmerman, 30, stood behind him with a blue scarf around his neck. Arm in arm, they shouted “USA! USA! USA!”
Holman and Zimmerman were among the 11 dedicated supporters who came to watch the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) defeat Spain 2-1 in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup round of 16 match at 9 a.m. The team is the defending champion and is considered a favorite to make it to the finals.
Holman and Zimmerman are board members of the American Outlaws San Francisco Chapter, an unofficial supporters’ group of both Men’s and Women’s U.S national soccer teams.
“I am watching every game, no matter if it’s the under-20 playing at 1 a.m on a Friday night,” Holman said.
The American Outlaws has more than 30,000 members and 200 chapters across the United States. The San Francisco chapter, with more than 350 members, is the largest of the Bay Area chapters and gathers regularly at McTeagues.
“It’s a good community of people with a great sense of camaraderie that doesn’t even require a lot of time,” said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman, who works in the finance industry, caught the soccer fever during the 1994 Men’s World Cup, hosted in the United States, and has watched almost every U.S national soccer team match ever since. He thinks the high-paced tempo, team-oriented spirit, and race-against-the-clock playing are the ingredients making soccer unique.
Holman, a Russian Hill resident, just came back from France last Friday, where he attended the last two group phase women’s games against Chile and Sweden, which the USWNT won 2-0 and 3-0. He will fly back next Sunday to attend every one of the team’s games from the semi-final to the final on July 7.
He is on a tight schedule, as he will watch the women’s quarterfinal match against France on Friday, and come back to support San Jose Earthquakes in an MLS match against the L.A Galaxy on Saturday in San Jose.
“My focus is soccer right now. I’m a man of priorities,” Holman said.
Another passionate American Outlaws’ supporter, Marina District resident Howey Quinn, bought a ticket to France and plans to stay for the competition. He has attended the U.S. women’s games in Le Havre, Paris and the round of 16 match against Spain in Reims.
Quinn and Holman are among the 100,000 American fans who bought tickets to the Women’s World Cup, according to Erwan Le Prevost, director of the World Cup Local Organising Committee.
Both booked an American Outlaws’ travel package with hotel bookings, plane tickets, transportation to the games and a couple of sightseeing trips. They spent more than $5,000 on flights, Women’s World Cup’s tickets and hotel bookings, and could pay more than $7,500 if the competition sees the USWNT go through to the final.
When in San Francisco, however, they gather at McTeague’s Saloon, a sports bar that has partnered with the American Outlaws San Francisco Chapter since 2013 and broadcasts every game of both the men’s and women’s U.S national teams.
Antal Herz, the manager of the bar, even likes to tell people that USWNT forward Alex Morgan — an alumna of nearby Cal — ordered a drink there once.
Soccer fans pack the bar regularly, and the establishment generated its three most profitable days during U.S matches in the Men’s Soccer World Cup in 2014.
A video shows them exulting frantically and spilling beer in the air there after John Anthony Brooks scored with a winning header in the final minutes of the opening match against Ghana.
“I remember the emotional roller-coaster of the game. Everybody was over-the-top happy,” remembers Zimmerman.
Zimmerman expects a similar experience during Friday’s match, and is confident the U.S. can defeat France.
Holman was more cautious.
“The only true thing about the U.S soccer team is that they will break your heart,” he said.