Everton USA

The English Premier League is enjoying unprecedented exposure and attention in the United States and EvertonUSA is well-positioned to connect American fans – long-standing and new – with Goodison Park.

When it comes to the "beautiful game" America has, historically, been something of a determined outlier. Football, as the rest of the world knows it, has played not second- or third- but usually fifth-fiddle to the NFL, baseball, basketball and ice hockey. That resistance to the world's most popular sport is very visibly changing, though. With the onset every four years of the World Cup and the exploits of the United States Men's National Team engrossing an increasing number of American fans, "soccer" has enjoyed an incremental increase in popularity across the Pond over the past couple of decades.

One significant component of the rapid expansion of the sport on American television has been the unprecedented coverage of the English game over the last few years, first from Fox Sports and now NBC who paid $250m for exclusive rights to the Premier League between 2013 and 2016. It's a small slice of the $2bn overseas broadcast rights deal that the Premier League negotiated last year but represents a significant leap forward for interest in our domestic game among a growing audience. With every "EPL" game being shown live every weekend and America's own version of Match of the Day, US viewers have access to our game like never before.

Joe-Max Moore signs an EvertonUSA flag during the "tailgate" party before the friendly against Valencia in Miami last year

Bolstered by Tim Howard's heroics for the USA in Brazil, Landon Donovan's loan spells at Goodison Park, the club's recent pre-season tours to America, and the immediacy of the Internet, that increased exposure is helping to create a new legion of Everton supporters keen to immerse themselves in the club and its traditions.

Working to bring all of those Stateside Blues under one umbrella is EvertonUSA, a network of Everton FC supporters clubs across the country that has grown its exposure through Twitter and, following the team's tour across the Pond for the International Champions Cup last summer, organised its first tour to Liverpool earlier this year which brought a group of 30 USA Blues over for what founder, David Kurtz, describes as "the highlight of all my sports fandom."

We caught up with David to find out how he became an Evertonian, what EvertonUSA is all about and what he has planned for the future.

How did you become an Evertonian? What attracted you to Everton?

I'm just a massive US-born sports fan. I even get excited for the luge in the Winter Olympics but I gave up the NFL in 2000 when Fox got the rights and it became super-commercial... I'm also a New York Jets fan and that might have something to do with it. My college roommate was a big Arsenal fan so I started by watching them a bit. But one day I saw the combination of Wayne Rooney and Duncan Ferguson who are just my kinda guys. They were so exciting, British, and who knew what they would do next, so from that moment of realization, I knew that I was an Evertonian. As an iconoclast myself, I knew I was witnessing something special. That afternoon, I ordered my first Everton kit and the Everton family has drawn me in ever since.

What is EvertonUSA?

EvertonUSA is an umbrella group for over 60+ official and unofficial US fan clubs across the States. We organize events like Tim Howard Appreciation Day, trips, ticketing and liaise with Everton and our US pubs on behalf of the US supporters. In an unprecedented move, EvertonUSA is now an official commercial partner of Everton and Kitbag, so we have a broader mandate to bring the Club commercial opportunities from the States. We will soon be launching a US-specific paid membership scheme, a US store, merchandise specific to the US market and the first US online ticketing for an English Premier League team. We're working with Everton's sponsors on some great US activation programs so we're really part of the fabric now, so to speak.


What motivated you to start EvertonUSA?

There were five US Everton fan clubs with small memberships when Dermot O'Reilly (Head of the Boston Evertonians) and I started developing EvertonUSA. The idea was simply to cast a broader net than the club could into the US and bring Evertonians together. With our vast geography, no amount of local clubs could satisfy all the fans in the US so a national club was needed. What we learned was that having a national organization, supporting the formation of local clubs was the right strategy for Everton or any club looking to expand it's reach here. We quickly became a valuable resource to all the existing supporters clubs, new clubs forming and Everton FC. It was so successful that we spun out a business to work with other clubs looking to reach the US market, Global Football America.

What is it like following Everton from the US?

Following Everton is an all-or-nothing proposition. Unlike other clubs, Evertonians are always fully engaged and so are we, even though we live on the other side of the world from Goodison Park. As a Californian, my weekends always include an early morning (sometimes as early as 4am), either at the Ye Olde King's Head Tavern or with my sons on the couch. Our regional supporters clubs bring together a mix of proper Scousers, "soccer moms & dads" and lots of college kids so it's a unique mix. We have an active Southern California group with possibly the funniest Everton Twitter account on the planet (@SoCalEverton) thanks to group head, Keven Chavez. This scene is replicated at 60+ pubs across the country every weekend, so Everton is no longer just a big-city thing but a national epidemic.

What was it like to have Everton over for last summers tour?

Everton's US Tour was, quite simply, a 10-day festival for us. We had great open practices and meet-and-greets with the team, epic pre-game pub takeovers and even a world-class tailgate party in Miami. Even Robert Earl came down and bought rounds for everyone, which blew us all away. EvertonUSA sold more tickets than any other club in the tournament so there was an excellent section of non-stop singing Evertonians bringing the atmosphere in each stadium. The promoters felt the need to warn the security of our presence in advance so we had fun with each stadium's overbearing security detail who were charmed by our ability to write a creative chant for any situation. The Americans, the ex-pats and the travelling Scousers all became fast friends so the magic of the "Everton family" was really felt by all the Americans who were seeing Everton for the first time. We certainly hope we get to do it again as often as possible since Everton is "America's Team" now.

Describe your match day routine

Wake up early, put on my lucky Dixie Dean shirt, prepare the coffee and bite the fingernails until the final whistle then the sun rises, my wife wakes up and we begin the weekend. On the east coast, my father takes the train two hours to NYC, sits at the bar at Mr. Dennehy's in the West Village and eats brunch with a huge group at that Everton-only pub. The same thing happens in almost every major city in the US.

Who is your favourite Everton player, past and present?

I have a strange affinity for Dave "The Rhino" Unsworth from my earliest days of following Everton. Since his transfer, both my five year-old son and I have adored "The Translucent One", Steven Naismith. But there is no question who my favorite person to every wear the Everton blue is Graeme Sharp. Sharpie was a legend on the pitch and he does so much off the pitch to engender true love of our Club. He's an amazing guy and I'm happy to say he's been a great friend to me and EvertonUSA since our inception.

How would compare the Premier League to Americas major sport leagues?

America's major sports are purely commercial enterprises while the Premier League has an authenticity and community mission that is missing in US sports. Competitively, the playoff system most of our leagues have makes the regular season less interesting and the lack of relegation encourages non-playoff-bound teams to "tank" the season for better draft picks. The Premier League's lack of playoffs and relegation make each week a necessity for every team. The FA might be missing out on a massive payday for a playoff system but it would take away from the must-see aspect of each Premier League game week if they did. However, one thing we do better here is stadiums and while I love the mystique of Goodison, I'm very excited to see the club take steps with this Walton Hall Park project. If done right, it will make all the difference to our beloved Club in the future.

Where do you feel soccer (and the Premier League specifically) is on the landscape of US sport? Was this years World Cup as big a boon to the sport in the States as is being made out?

The US has finally reached the tipping point with soccer. With our changing demographics and the growth of the Hispanic population in the US, soccer and specifically European soccer (not MLS) is the fastest growing sport on TV here. The World Cup is a one-off and we've had strong US viewership for that competition for a while. The big growth actually lies with the superb EPL coverage NBC has provided and the increased viewership of the Champions League which rivals playoff viewership of NBA and MLB games. Think about this, the average EPL game at 7am on Saturday morning gets a better TV rating than any NHL playoff game got last spring. By any metrics, soccer has arrived in the US.

If you could compare Everton to one major American team (MLB, NFL, NBA), what would it be?

I hate this comparison because Everton is such a unique sports brand in my mind. But if I had to say one team, I'd associate us with the San Antonio Spurs, a class team from a smaller market that is greater than the sum of it's parts. Hopefully, we are destined to emulate their success on the pitch soon too.

How would describe the match-going experience in England compared with the American sport?

As a Los Angelean who vacations in Liverpool, there is quite simply nothing more fun than the hours spent hopping from the Royal Oak to the Brick to the Winslow with a stop at St. Domingo's to pay our respects. Game day at Dodger Stadium, the Staples Center or Stubhub Center just doesn't compare. At those stadiums, you just go see the game while at Goodison, it's a full-day affair filled with seeing old friends and making new ones. I've been to over 100 US sports stadiums and nothing compares to Goodison on game day. It is truly a highlight of my life every year.

Whats your impression of where Everton figure in the popularity of EPL teams in the US?

Everton is America's Team! Most of that is due to the US' love of Tim Howard but people are really attracted to our brand of football and the club history now. We even got two ESPN anchors to say "The American People's Club" on air. Manchester United is by far the most popular in the States but by the numbers EvertonUSA is slightly larger than ArsenalAmerica, Chelsea in America and far ahead of Liverpool and Manchester City here. This is one arena in which Everton have a chance to compete with anyone and with our cohesive group of supporters clubs growing quickly every week, I think we'll cement the reputation of being America's Team. It's a title I'm not willing to give up without a hard fight!

How do you think the club can grow the fanbase on your side of the Atlantic?

The Club needs to tour at least every other summer here. Our pre-season tours have always been a source of confusion but if they make the commitment to come, they will do their part in building the brand here. Since EvertonUSA now has all the US commercial rights, we're set to start making sure that Everton services their US fanbase better than any other Club and, even better, we will engage the fans in a way that no other Club does now.

What has been the highlight of your life as an Everton fan so far?

Last year's EvertonUSA tour was the highlight of all my sports fandom. We did a complete Merseyside sports tour with thirty fantastic Americans, every one of which got along great and actively contributed to the fun. The itinerary included two Everton wins at Goodison, a Tony Bellew fight (he won), a St. Helens rugby game (another win), a Wigan game (5-5 draw?!) and a Champions League night at Manchester United which was their game of the year under David Moyes. It set a high standard for future trips but we're up for the challenge of replicating it every year.

What are the future plans for EvertonUSA?

EvertonUSA plans to expand our reach and services over the rest of the season. Now that we are official commercial partners with the Club and Kitbag, we'll be launching an online ticketing service for US Evertonians, offering tickets to every game, months in advance and in US dollars to enable Americans to schedule trips to the UK and include Everton in their agenda. We will be launching a US store with a mix of Kitbag and Umbro products and some US-specific merchandise that will hopefully solve some of our commercial issues here in the States.

We are also launching the first US-specific membership scheme here in the States to cater to the needs of US fans, the supporters clubs and Everton's sponsors. Also, outreach is planned to cultivate the University crowd. We're setting up a College Supporters Program with campus pubs at major colleges that will hopefully drive supporters and give some kids a great internship experience marketing Everton on their campuses. The Club has been amazingly supportive of all our efforts and now that we have the resources and commercial relationship, we plan on rewarding Everton with US fan engagement and new revenue streams from this side of the pond. The future is bright for Everton both on the pitch and in the United States. NSNO!

EvertonUSA is a network of over 60 official and unofficial fan clubs across the United States that is forging closer ties between the Club and a growing fanbase across the Pond.

You can get involved by visiting them on Facebook, following them on Twitter or attending one of the many weekly pub meet-ups for Everton matches.