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World Cup unites sports fans at Rhombus Guys in Grand Forks

During a watch party at Rhombus Guys in downtown Grand Forks Sunday afternoon, local soccer fans react to Portugal scoring a goal in the first half of the World Cup match against the U.S. (Photo by Trent Opstedahl/Grand Forks Herald)1 / 2
Members of the American Outlaws chapter in Grand Forks cheer on the U.S. men's national soccer team during Sunday night's World Cup match against Portugal at a watch party held at Rhombus Guys. American Outlaws is an unofficial support group of the U.S. national soccer team, with about 15 members here in the local chapter. (Photo by Trent Opstedahl/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 2

While the Super Bowl might serve as one of the biggest watching parties in the U.S., the World Cup has turned the average night of sports-watching into a month-long get-together event for Grand Forks sports fans.

Sunday night’s match with the U.S. men’s national team facing off against Portugal drew more than 40 people to Rhombus Guys in downtown Grand Forks where hardcore soccer fans and casual supporters of the U.S. team gathered to witness a 2-2 draw.

“Soccer fans are soccer fans, wherever you go,” David Agee, co-president of the American Outlaws chapter in Grand Forks, said.

An unofficial U.S. national soccer team support group, the American Outlaws chapter in Grand Forks has about 15 members, which is not enough to be officially recognized as a chapter, Agge said.

Despite low membership, there was not a shortage of soccer fans in attendance at the group’s organized watch party.

“The World Cup gets people united,” said Agee, while fellow soccer fans in the room sang the National Anthem seconds before the anticipated match began. “The community is dominated by hockey and football fans, but we are a united force.”

For some, the interest in soccer began at a young age.

“I first got interested in it during the 1994 World Cup when it was hosted here in the U.S.,” Nate Leiphon, of Devils Lake, said.

Just like her brother, Rachael Leiphon, of Grand Forks, has watched every World Cup with her family for as long as she can remember.

“It’s been interesting to see how the interest (in the U.S.) has progressed,” she said. “It’s building up.”

The U.S.’ draw with Portugal puts intense pressure on the American team, as the Americans need to at least tie the Germans next week or risk getting passed over for the second position in the pool.

Like the Leiphon siblings, local soccer enthusiast Jon Ey is a longtime fan and said he is glad there is a go-to place in Grand Forks to watch the World Cup and other matches throughout the year.