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'Free Beer Movement' aims at growing U.S. national soccer fan base

Published: Thursday, July 25 2013 2:20 p.m. MDT

US fans celebrate after Santino Quaranta scored the first goal against Honduras during a CONCACAF Gold Cup first round match at RFK Stadium in Washington on July 8, 2009.  The US won 2-0.   (NICHOLAS KAMM, AFP/Getty Images) US fans celebrate after Santino Quaranta scored the first goal against Honduras during a CONCACAF Gold Cup first round match at RFK Stadium in Washington on July 8, 2009. The US won 2-0. (NICHOLAS KAMM, AFP/Getty Images)

Free beer and professional American soccer might be developing a relationship due to a recent grass-roots movement called the Free Beer Movement.

The concept is simple: Invite friends to watch a U.S. soccer game by offering a cold, bubbly beverage on you. But the goal is even simpler: to build a U.S. soccer fan base one fan and one beer at a time.

In a video feature by Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl sits down with American Outlaws Austin chapter president Dan Wiersema to discuss the movement. Wiersema said offering a casual fan, friend or total soccer newbie a beer will entice them to watch a game, and after that a love affair with the sport has an opportunity to develop.

"It's kind of the grass-roots way, a silly idea with a serious goal of making the sport bigger in the United States," Wiersema explained in the video.

Fans wave an American flag following a USA goal during a Gold Cup soccer match against Guadeloupe in Kansas City, Kan., Tuesday, June 14, 2011. (Orlin Wagner, AP) Fans wave an American flag following a USA goal during a Gold Cup soccer match against Guadeloupe in Kansas City, Kan., Tuesday, June 14, 2011. (Orlin Wagner, AP)

Although beer seems to be the center focus of the movement, Wiersema says it is merely the medium. His message is soccer, the love and passion for the game.

In 2009, he launched the movement after his own curiosity and ambitions for soccer in the U.S. escalated to a new level.

"I lived in Honduras and traveled in Central America for a while and witnessed what it means to be in countries that are 'soccer mad,’ ” Wiersema said in explaining how the idea dawned on him to MLSsoccer.com. "When I moved back to the United States, I was no longer content with being 'just a fan.' I wanted to do something more."

The concept for the movement developed from Wiersema's own love for soccer and beer. It started on a personal level and quickly generated interest from other American Outlaws.

Randolf Scott shows support for the USA team during Gold Cup soccer in Sandy, Saturday, July 13, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Randolf Scott shows support for the USA team during Gold Cup soccer in Sandy, Saturday, July 13, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

"At first it was an avenue for examining my own beer and soccer fandom," Wiersema continued. "But then the idea resonated with so many like-minded fans that the Free Beer Movement evolved into the advocacy and educational organization that it is today."

Wiersema says the educational part of the Free Beer Movement is geared to eliminating the typical American skepticism of soccer. He, like many other soccer fans, wants the country to stop criticizing the sport because they don't understand it.

Why beer though? The movement's website says beer has the power to influence people to step out of their comfort zones and try something new.

United States' Clint Dempsey (8) reacts after his goal during the second half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal soccer match against Jamaica on Sunday, June 19, 2011, at RFK Stadium in Washington. The United States won 2-0.  (Alex Brandon, AP) United States' Clint Dempsey (8) reacts after his goal during the second half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal soccer match against Jamaica on Sunday, June 19, 2011, at RFK Stadium in Washington. The United States won 2-0. (Alex Brandon, AP)

Growth of American soccer is the latest influence Wiersema and the Free Beer Movement's supporters hope it will have on potential U.S. fans.

Whitney O'Bannon is a new media sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow on Twitter at @whitney_oban.

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