The parking lots of Rentschler Field, usually quiet on a midweek summer's night, became an international playground Tuesday night uniting thousands with one common interest — soccer.
American flags worn as capes, flags of Costa Rica flying high, children dancing to Cuban music — exuberant fans of four soccer teams made their way to the East Hartford stadium for two Gold Cup matches played at Rentschler Field, Belize vs. Cuba and U.S. vs. Costa Rica.
Before any of the game action started, fans of rival teams playfully egged on each other with chants and music in the parking lots during a tailgate that started at 2:30 when the gates opened. Some families had dueling interests, like one family from New Jersey that was rooting for Costa Rica while their young daughters proudly cheered the U.S.
Taking up a full lot on their own were the American Outlaws, a national organization built around supporting the U.S. Men's Soccer Team.
Started in Lincoln, Neb., in 2007, the American Outlaws have 89 chapters and nearly 10,000 members across the country, including an official chapter in Hartford.
Called the American Outlaws because they felt like outlaws in a sea of American football fans, they took it one step further with their "uniform," as they call it, the bandana.
The Hartford chapter estimated that 700 American Outlaws filtered in for Tuesday's Gold Cup, including some from as far as Seattle, Los Angeles and San Diego.
It's not often that Hartford gets to host the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team.
"It's an honor for us," said Outlaws member Tom Lovkay. "We feel like we always get left out in the conversation to host big games, but we finally got 'em here. We're very excited."
Outlaws member Dorian Tanasi added: "It's the thing that as a chapter you look forward to, because the spotlight is on you for that game."
At 7 p.m., the Outlaws were escorted by security into the stadium, chanting "U-S-A U-S-A" as a crowd of fellow tailgaters formed a path for them, taking videos and cheering them on. Their march didn't come without some pushback, though. Costa Rica fans met them at the gate with a flag and chants of their own.
Seated across from the Rentschler scoreboard, the American Outlaws put on a show. After displaying an American flag that spanned half of the section during the National Anthem and unfurling a giant "Come On You Yanks!!!!" tifo, which took about 15 seconds to open up in a wave, they led the fan charge throughout the game.