Soccer is growing in Charlotte. It is obvious from the international friendlies, the crowds outside Courtyard Hooligans during national team matches, and the increasing chatter of a potential MLS franchise in the future. In the very center of all of this is one super fan who fell in love with the United States national teams years ago, and now leads the growing Queens City Outlaws (Charlotte’s chapter of the American Outlaws.)
Meet Matt Garner.
While you read about him and his antics during the recent Mexico vs. Trinadad & Tobago game, I have actually been observing his passion for the game and fan culture for over five years now.
Recently I sat down with Matt and his dog ‘Murica and asked him a couple questions about his history as a fan and the growth of soccer in Charlotte.
How did you come to be such a passionate US soccer fan?
Growing up being a soccer fan in Charleston, there were no major professional sports team that I could really align with. I felt as a soccer fan and proud American that the national team was my team. Most people have a club team they support, but to me, my local team was the US National Team.
How did you start getting involved with the soccer crowd at Courtyard Hooligans and the American Outlaws?
I went to Winthrop and graduated in 2008 and stayed in the area with my wife. As a US soccer fan I came up to Charlotte see the Confederations Cup final in 2009, and I realized I wanted to watch more games in Charlotte. The local watch location for American Outlaws was Hooligans and I met up with them before the 2010 World Cup, and ever since then I have been all in and wanted to help it grow.
What makes Courtyard Hooligans such a special as place to watch a game?
We are such a tight knit circle, but once you walk in the door we want you in our circle. The soccer community is small, and because I like to talk, when someone walks in I want to welcome them and get to know them. We are trying to get more people to join, and we want to create an atmosphere that is fun and welcoming.
How do you see the soccer culture in Charlotte growing?
That is an interesting question. It’s only upside… that’s the good thing. There is a culture here but it’s still so small. When I go to Hooligans chances are that I know at least 10 people there. For the culture to grow its going to take getting people who aren’t necessarily soccer fans, but are American sports fans who love Charlotte. Hopefully it doesn’t become just a soccer culture, but instead becomes part of sports culture as a whole.
- Matt keeps a spreadsheet of all the games he has been to – 13 total.
- He travelled with his wife to Brazil and saw all the national team’s group stage games. He also said I could add that his son Maverick was conceived after the US beat Ghana.