• Kristen Saibini

NWSL Supporter Groups: Friendly and Fierce

Family, friends, community.

If you are a women’s soccer fan you know how engaged and vocal the fan base can be. From banter on social media to following soccer-specific writers and going to games and repping team gear, women’s soccer fans are passionate. So how do those three words and women’s soccer come together in the same article?

Because of these three words: team supporter groups. Each National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team has at least one prominent supporter group that has one common goal: supporting their team and helping to grow the fan base.

From singing, chanting and drumming at games to helping in their communities and holding fundraisers to welcoming new members with open arms, these groups can agree on one more thing: near or far if you are looking for a community that thrives on women’s soccer, you’ve found it.

Case in point. Just in time for the Challenge Cup, these groups announced a special, new fundraiser. The NWSL supporter groups will be fundraising through ACTS: Activating Communities Through Sports – an NWSL Supporters Initiative.


“We acknowledge that the spaces where our teams will be training and playing over the course of the next month in Utah are on traditional Indigenous lands,” said ACTS on their Twitter account, @NWSLSG_ACTS. “As such, we are using this platform to support the American Indians/Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) living in and around Salt Lake City.


The first ACTS fundraiser will benefit the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake (UICSL) which serves The People by honoring Native cultures, strengthening health and wellness programs and cultivating community. You can make a pledge to support UICSL with every goal scored by your club during the NWSL Challenge Cup. Additional details can be found on the ACTS Twitter account.


Below is a rundown of these supporter groups to help you learn a little more about them. Are you a member of one of these groups? If so, let us know in the comments your favorite moment as part of your Supporters Group.

Sky Blue

Cloud 9 (@Cloud9SBFC)

Interview with Jen Muller

Account is run by:

It’s kept secret!

What section is your supporters group in the stadium for games?

We sit in section 101.

How did this supporters group get started?

I wasn’t involved at that point but when it started in 2013 it was just a handful of people and was very informal. By the time I got started in 2015 there was really just one person left from 2013. In 2015 we got more organized as a group and we got a boost from the World Cup. We also started bringing people in who were also fans of the Red Bulls of the MLS and other teams in the area.

What is your goal as the official supporter group of your club?

First and foremost our goal is to support the team on game day. Singing, chanting, drums, banners, tifos (giant banners), the whole thing. But supporting the team both on and off the field is our primary objective. We also look to contribute to our community. We try and work with local charitable organizations throughout the year.


What is the best part of being a part of this group?

The best part is we are a family. We all come from different backgrounds and we are a group of people who probably wouldn’t be friends otherwise but this thing brings us together. I’m proud of the way our membership has grown and has been welcoming to new people. We get a lot of people that come on their own. It’s not like we get groups of friends joining necessarily so I like that we’ve built this environment that people feel comfortable coming on their own and knowing that we will be there day in and day out.

What is your favorite memory as part of this group?

There are two games that stand out. One is the last game of the 2018 season. We went into that last game with zero wins and it was a tough year all around but our core group kept coming to games and singing their hearts out. Carli [Lloyd] scored the only goal of the game and we won and just the joy in our section was amazing. There were people crying just because it was such a tough year on and off the field for our players. Also, the first game played in Red Bull Arena was special.

How have you been keeping engaged with fans during COVID-19 with no games?

We’ve been doing a lot online. From Zoom tailgates to fundraising. Early on we did a donation drive to one of the organizations we support, the AIDS Resource Foundation for Children, they have adult housing for gay/bisexual men who are HIV positive and the other is for women who have been victims of abuse who are HIV positive. They are a bit more of at-risk health wise so we did an Amazon donation drive to keep them busy with things to do around the house, puzzles, games etc. We also sent them a bunch of masks we had made for our members. Right now we are doing a merchandise fundraiser for the Black Trans Travel Fund with all proceeds though the end of July going to that organization.

What advice would you give to fans who live outside an NWSL market on how best to follow teams and feel a part of a team?

Advice I’ve given to other people before is find a player from your region or a player who played at a college you went to or are local to. And it doesn’t have to be a National Team player. If you are in a region and none of the teams speak to you, find players to support and I think they’d appreciate it as well. The National Team players tend to get most of the shine so supporting the players on a personal level might also help you find a team to latch onto as well. There’s nothing wrong with following the league as a whole but it’s nice to have loyalty to a team but even just watching the games alone is a huge boost and will help us expand to other cities someday.

How are you planning to cover the Challenge Cup?

We are trying Zoom watch parties. The timing of the middle of the day games might be tough with people working but we’ll figure it out. We just want to stay connected online.

Washington Spirit

Spirit Squadron (@spiritsquadron)

Interview with Megan Wesson


Account is run by:

Angie Kanellopulos (@SquadronAng)

Megan Wesson (@SquadronMeg)

What section is your supporters group in the stadium for games?

With the new stadium changes we aren’t positive where our sections will be yet, but previously at Audi we have been in 136 and 137.

How did this supporters group get started?

The Squadron was dreamed up shortly after the league announcement. The co-creator, Ashley Nichols, created the Twitter account (@SpiritSquadron) and invited people to sit with us at the first preseason games. As more people heard us in the stands or saw our random theme nights they joined.

What is your goal as the official supporter group of your club?

Our main goal is to first and foremost show our players we’re there supporting them until the very last second. It is also our goal to make sure the opposing team doesn’t feel like they have any sort of advantage, whether we’re home or away.


What is the best part of being a part of this group?

For me personally, the best part is they are my second family. We call ourselves the Island of Misfit Toys. We all have different backgrounds and environments but everyone is there to have a good time, and collectively put effort into helping our team win.

What is your favorite memory as part of this group?

The whole 2016 season, except the last few minutes of the final, of course. We had all experienced that whirlwind of a season together. Our semi-final at home, the trip to Houston, the Squadron’s largest membership numbers, and our partnership with that year’s players.

How have you been keeping engaged with fans during COVID-19 with no games?

We have weekly Zoom tailgates that we are all able to keep up with each other. Social media has been a great tool to reach out, and keep everyone up to date with the latest information.

What advice would you give to fans who live outside an NWSL market on how best to follow teams and feel a part of a team?

I live outside of the NWSL markets and these are what worked best for me. Find the team and Supporters Group that fits best for you. Follow them on social media, buy season tickets if you can, join their Zoom calls or watch parties. Once you can go to games, reach out to fellow fans, NWSL fans are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.

How are you planning to cover the Challenge Cup?

We’re hoping to set up some video watch parties for the Challenge Cup games. You can keep up with tournament news and information by following us (@SpiritSquadron), and the Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) on Twitter.

Houston Dash

Bayou City Republic (@BayouCityRep)

Interview with an anonymous group lead


Account is run by:

It’s a secret!

What section is your supporters group in the stadium for games?

We are in section 137.


How did this supporters group get started?

We started off as a drumming group in 2015 beating on five-gallon buckets. That eventually grew into choosing the group name that summer. All of us were season ticket holders that also attended watch parties at The Phoenix on Westheimer.


What is your goal as the official supporter group of your club?

To provide a space where fans can be crazy, super fans and passionate about Houston Dash soccer. We’re an immediate community when you need one. Soccer has been a space we’ve all turned to when we move somewhere new. If you’re looking for a crew to talk women’s soccer (or soccer in general), we probably have someone here for you.


What is the best part of being a part of this group?

Community. I know I’ve already covered that, but it’s the truth. I’ve seen people become best friends, date, find support, find a roommate and travel together through this group. It’s been hard to be away from the community while we social distance. We don’t all live in Houston, so to lose that “axis mundi” can feel rough. Besides family, a lot of us in BCR are checking in with each other and helping others get through this time.


What is your favorite memory as part of this group?

I always go back to the Seattle game in May, 2018. The Dash were having a rough time and we had never beaten Seattle, so a couple of us decided to walk around BBVA and sage it. Seattle was up the whole first half. Kristie Mewis comes in and scores in the 68th minute and then Veronica Latsko seals the deal in the 93rd minute. We were so excited when the whistle blew to close the game. Call it divine intervention or belief in your team, but it really felt like the whole DashFam (team and fans) could do big things if we focused on the goal. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. Texas forever.


How have you been keeping engaged with fans during COVID-19 with no games?

Mostly social media.


What advice would you give to fans who live outside an NWSL market on how best to follow teams and feel a part of a team?

Pick a team, follow all of the social media, watch all the videos and learn/study all of the players. Then talk to others about the team on social media. Buy some merchandise. Find someone in your area to talk NWSL with. Then go to some local college soccer games and find others that want to talk NWSL or teach them everything you know about the NWSL. Have watch parties at a bar or your house (which is kind of hard to do right now) so have a Zoom call where you watch a game together and talk about it while you watch. There are SO MANY really great old NWSL games on YouTube. Start there.


How are you planning to cover the Challenge Cup?

We’re looking to have outdoor watch parties at The Phoenix in Houston. But, if you’re hesitant to participate due to COVID-19, we’ll be doing the old school distance watch party through a Twitter hashtag. Maybe we’ll do a Zoom call if people want to talk about the game.

Chicago Red Stars

Chicago Local 134 (@ChicagoLocal134)

Interview with Lauren L.

Account is run by:

Lauren L.

What section is your supporters group in the stadium for games?

Section 118 behind the north goal.

How did this supporters group get started?

The group was officially formed in 2009 to support the Red Stars in the Women’s Professional Soccer league. It was revived in 2014 under the leadership of Maggie Dziubek, who leads the group today alongside many active members and organizers.


What is your goal as the official supporter group of your club?

Our goal is always to build a community of supporters for the Chicago Red Stars. We work closely with two other groups who support both the Red Stars and the Fire, Black Fires & The Red Line SG.


What is the best part of being a part of this group?

The best part of being a Local 134 member is having a huge group of friends and supporters to not only watch the Red Stars with but also work together to help our community and our city.

What is your favorite memory as part of this group?

Nearly everyone would immediately list the 2019 home semifinal when our supporters stretched across two full sections of the stadium and sang together in full voice to propel the club to a win and on to the first NWSL Championship appearance. It was a perfect day!

How have you been keeping engaged with fans during COVID-19 with no games?

We hosted a virtual tailgate with Revolution Brewing Co. on the day that was supposed to be our home opener. We had hundreds of supporters & fans join us, along with CRS staff and players, to display homemade tifo, drink Revolution Beer and celebrate our community.

What advice would you give to fans who live outside an NWSL market on how best to follow teams and feel a part of a team?

The best way is to find a club with a vibe you connect with and follow their social channels and supporters group and their local media. Here in Chicago we’re so lucky to have incredible journalists covering the team, especially Sandra and Claire of the Southside Trap podcast. As supporters, we stay in constant contact through our active Slack workspace with discussions ranging from soccer to community activism to book and movie clubs, and more. We have many out of town members (even out of country) and we encourage anyone who loves the Red Stars to visit ~chicagolocal134.com~ to learn more!

How are you planning to cover the Challenge Cup?

We’re not hosting any events due to public safety concerns, but we’ll be connecting as a group at halftime via video chats.

Portland Thorns

Rose City Riveters (@PDXRivetersSG)

Interview with Jo of the supporter’s group


Account is run by:

Jo (the rest is a secret!)


What section is your supporters group in the stadium for games?

The North End


How did this supporters group get started?

A teenager said, essentially, if we’re gonna have a women’s team that team needs a Supporter’s Group. Brainstorming sessions started over a kitchen table, and that evolved into Rose City Riveters.


What is your goal as the official supporter group of your club?

We support the team, and we love our community. That simple.


What is the best part of being a part of this group?

We share a lot together – camaraderie in volunteering and working together to support our team in a myriad of ways. Whether it’s creating our wonderful match day displays or running donation drives for local nonprofits, we do great work together. Seeing what we are able to achieve in the name of the club that we love is nothing short of awe inspiring.


How have you been keeping engaged with fans during COVID-19 with no games?

We use our social media channels to keep in touch and we are highly interactive that way. We also send out a newsletter. Next up: Zoom bingo with Capo Sunday!


What advice would you give to fans who live outside an NWSL market on how best to follow teams and feel a part of a team?

Rose City Riveters have so many supporters who reside outside of the city (I’m one of them), outside of the state, and even outside of the country. We can ship our merchandise internationally and our online retail shop is robust and all our sales help support some amazing nonprofits. We keep active on social media and make a point to help share information on how to view matches, if at all possible. Utilize all channels available to you – especially those interactive channels online.


How are you planning to cover the Challenge Cup?

No special coverage, but it will definitely be a talking point!

NC Courage

The Uproar (@UproarNC)

Interview with Mary Ann Pruter


Account is run by:

Dave Warner and Mary Anne Pruter

What section is your supporters group in the stadium for games?

We are in section 107.

How did this supporters group get started?

Over the course of the 2019 NC Courage Season, Dave Warner and Patrick Sloan realized an opportunity existed to ignite better energy and enthusiasm in the south grandstands of Sahlen’ Stadium through chants and music. A supporters group was formed primarily to provide a specific outlet for rhythms and singing and planted in section 207 as The Nameless supporters group on June 13th 2019. The group grew in size rapidly to 30-40 members in the first two weeks, and after a number of ideas were tossed around in group discussion, the group debuted on July 4th weekend as The Uproar. The concept continued to gather traction and provided marquee noise support at the Women’s International Champions Cup and the NWSL Championship Semifinal and Final events. For 2020, the group has installed an exciting and full board-of-directors and is embracing its role as a central hub for fan engagement with the NC Courage.

What is your goal as the official supporter group of your club?

Our main goal is growing the fan base and the culture. North Carolina does have a lot of college teams and we want to bring those people in these games to help with grow the culture. It’s a growing culture but sometimes it feels slower that what we want it to be so by making it exciting and having in-game festivities with changing and drumming. From there we wanted to make it exciting with in-game festivities, official tailgates, supporting our team, holding the club responsible with their messaging and help diversify their opinion too as there are a lot of queer people in the organization.


What is the best part of being a part of this group?

The best part of this group is having a community and having more people to share the love of our team; we are able to have deeper conversations about our love for the game and this team and they know our players the way I know these players. Everyone I’ve met has been really awesome. We’ve had some fans of the men’s team migrate over to the women’s team as well.


Our Vice President, Jessica Turner, has been a wonderful part of helping lead this group into the future in addition to Dave and Patrick with our in-game experience. Jessica has been an integral part of helping me grow beyond that: she helps me organize things; she speaks up and makes sure we are saying what we need to when we need to; and holds us back when maybe we don’t need to say something. She attends pretty much all the same meetings I attend and some that I can’t. She knows a lot about soccer and has helped increase my soccer IQ. When we were getting our leadership in order, I knew I wanted to be President and I knew I wanted her as my Vice President.

What is your favorite memory as part of this group?

One of my favorite activities besides the final last year with the dueling support groups, which was nice as you don’t get it every much, was doing tifos at the end of last year. I designed a few at the season and it was fun to draw it out and make it happen. We’ve had some fun ones, we did one that said “we break our own records,” we did a Heather O’Reilly one with all of her crests on there and our hardest one was Rory, who is our mascot. We put her on the Hulk’s body. The ability to share a creation with a group of people is great.

How have you been keeping engaged with fans during COVID-19 with no games?

We have a Slack channel for our paid members that we use for breaking news that stays pretty active during the week. We did a thing with the team where we had one of their players answer questions. It was just the supporter group and the player Denise O’Sullivan and she did our membership scarf reveal and we had some players model the scarfs to put on social media. We’ve done a couple Zoom hangouts with the men’s supporter group (we are all part of the Dead Whale Society – learn more here. We also have a hockey supporter’s group that falls under that umbrella. We are throwing a Pride event July 3 so we are using that to raise some money for the LGBT Center in Raleigh and also splitting the proceeds of that with the HRC Human Rights Campaign as well.

What advice would you give to fans who live outside an NWSL market on how best to follow teams and feel a part of a team?

Women’s soccer Twitter is pretty active so you can find a couple hashtags to follow. Start with your team and see what hashtags they are using and tweeting out. Find your supporters group and reach out to them and see what you can join of theirs. Along with our Slack Channel that is for our paid members we do have a Facebook group and a Twitter. One thing I was doing, even when I wasn’t a part of anything yet, was I tried to consume as much women’s soccer media as I possible. I subscribed to the Equalizer, I got an Athletic subscription and Backline Soccer and there are tons of Podcasts you can listen to. There’s also the NWSL supporter’s group in general on Facebook and that has been great and stays really active. The moderators do a really good job of making it a safe space.

How are you planning to cover the Challenge Cup?

Right now we are focusing on our Pride event which is July 3. But we are working on virtual tailgates and our club is doing a lot of pre-and-post game interviews in addition to whatever CBS does so we’ll be tweeting that. And Secret is selecting a specific number of people for a watch party and they will take your reaction and faces and put it on the screen at the stadium so we are going to try and participate in that as much as we can. And we are always chatting in Slack about it in games and we want to make sure our members can watch and that we are reaching out to them to see if they need additional support so they don’t miss a game. Not everybody has been fortunate enough to continue working during this time so we are going to see how we can help our members.

Utah Royals

Court of Royals (@CourtofRoyals)

Interview with Kristina Anderson


Account is run by:

Kristina Anderson (@KristinaChelsea)


What section is your supporters group in the stadium for games?

Our official sections are 28 & 29, but we have members throughout the stadium!


How did this supporters group get started?

The Court started as a small group of friends who were all excited about the idea of our city getting a NWSL club decided that we needed to have a supporter’s group for them once they got started. So, we picked a name, one of us designed a logo, and then we started a Facebook group welcoming other people who were excited about the team, and the rest is (a very short) history.


What is your goal as the official supporter group of your club?

Our goal is to support our team while having a good time.


What is the best part of being a part of this group?

We have a great community during matches, and have made a lot of new friends passionate about the sport.


What is your favorite memory as part of this group?

The team let us scarf the players before the first home match, and that was a great experience that let us get up close and personal with the team. There have been some great singular moments, but I feel like that was the best memory.


What advice would you give to fans who live outside an NWSL market on how best to follow teams and feel a part of a team?

Follow the rest of the SGs on twitter! It is a great community, and that is the best way to feel included.


How are you planning to cover the Challenge Cup?

We don’t have any specific plans on how we will do that, but generally we just post excitedly throughout the matches. That is our usual match day twitter persona, and I don’t see that changing much.

Orlando Pride

Black Swans (@BlackSwansDC)

Interview with Black Swans leadership


Account is run by:

Leadership.


What section is your supporters group in the stadium for games?

The Wall! Standing-only section behind the North goal.


How did this supporters group get started?

A bunch of like-minded supporters for the Pride wanted to take the camaraderie of the tailgate into the stadium.


What is your goal as the official supporter group of your club?

Promote and preserve a spirit of goodwill in soccer activities by fostering a high degree of morale among its members through social and recreational endeavors with: support inside the stadium for all Orlando Pride home games with chants, flags, banners, noise and goal celebrations to create an intimidating atmosphere for the opposing team.


What is the best part of being a part of this group?

The way we support each other as family.


What is your favorite memory as part of this group?

Our very first tailgate as an official group. We had so many new members that started off as strangers, but quickly became integral to our group.


Before the season started in 2019, our members thought they were coming to the stadium to paint the tunnel and once everyone was there, we were able to surprise them with an event that included almost the entire team. No selfies or autographs – just genuine conversations with each other and painting the tunnel.


How have you been keeping engaged with fans during COVID-19 with no games?

We mostly communicate through a private Facebook group.


What advice would you give to fans who live outside an NWSL market on how best to follow teams and feel a part of a team?

Watch as many games as you can, buy some swag from your favorite team and engage in discussions on social media.


How are you planning to cover the Challenge Cup?

Now that we aren’t in the Cup we have some things in planning to connect with our members and community. We will also be taking part in the recently announced ACTS fundraiser to benefit the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake.

OL Reign

Royal Guard (@RoyalGuard_SG)

Interview with Jocelyn “Jake” Houghton


Account is run by:

Jocelyn “Jake” Houghton: @ladyjake


What section is your supporters group in the stadium for games?

Sections 124, 125, & 126 behind goal.


How did this supporters group get started?

We grew out of the larger Puget Sound soccer community supporting the Seattle Sounders FC and, in 2012, the Sounders Women (no relation) who signed five U.S. Women’s National Team players after the Women’s Professional Soccer league collapsed. Once the Predmores were awarded the NWSL team, we sprang into formation to support the women’s game at the highest level in our region.


What is your goal as the official supporter group of your club?

We are here to support! We support our club and our players through match-day experiences behind goal: raising tifo, flying flags, chanting and singing alongside the Rain City Riot drum corps and setting off flares to celebrate goals. Alongside our sibling-SG, The Order of the Reign, we award a “Reign Maker” pin to the player we vote as Player of the Match after each home game.

We support fans by providing a safe and welcoming environment for these activities, by providing an exciting in-stadium atmosphere and by hosting pre-game tailgates and away-game watch parties.

Finally, we support community by raising money for charitable organizations and using our platform to advocate for issues that affect our communities.


What is the best part of being a part of this group?

The thrill of adding to the spectacle of the Beautiful Game and cheering on our players. It’s really satisfying to know that our support boosts the players and enhances the enjoyment of fans in the stadium.


What is your favorite memory as part of this group?

My favorite memory is my first trip to Portland with the Royal Guard for a Cascadia derby match against the Thorns in 2017. The away fan section is tucked away up in the rafters but we made ourselves heard! And as a bonus, we got heckled by Nadia Nadim as we were entering Providence Park.


How have you been keeping engaged with fans during COVID-19 with no games?

Through social media.


What advice would you give to fans who live outside an NWSL market on how best to follow teams and feel a part of a team?

Follow the team as well as the supporters group(s) on social media. There are also groups on Facebook dedicated to teams, the league and the women’s game globally. Also follow women’s soccer journalism (subscribing when able) and podcasts, especially those dedicated to your team. SB Nation is good for local indie coverage of soccer teams. We’re lucky to have The Ride of the Valkyries, which is a sub-blog of Sounder at Heart, covering the Reign.


How are you planning to cover the Challenge Cup?

We’ll be active on social media and we’re excited to join ACTS (Activating Communities Through Support), a NWSL supporters initiative that is raising money for the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake during the Challenge Cup, to acknowledge the Indigenous land the tournament is being played on, and support the Native Americans living in SLC, particularly during the Covid-19 crisis.

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