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Make a soccer convert, buy them a beer

Ian Dille

World Cup fever infected Austin this summer, transforming casual soccer fans into borderline hooligans. Collective gasps rang out from packed local pubs when shots sailed wide, and complete strangers hugged when the ball hit the back of the net.

For the final match, between the Netherlands and Spain, Austin ranked seventh in national TV ratings. Though the stadium lights have dimmed in South Africa, soccer converts need not wait another four years to enjoy the world's most popular game.

This Tuesday, the U.S. will take on Brazil in a friendly (an exhibition, in soccer lingo). Soccer enthusiasts from the Free Beer Movement (more on this later) and the Austin Outlaws, perhaps the nation's rowdiest fan club, are throwing a game-watching party at Mister Tramps Sports Pub and Café.

In addition to a lively atmosphere, due in part to one-dollar beers for the first 150 soccer fans through the door, the event will feature ticket giveaways, merchandise and player appearances by the Austin Aztex — our town's own top-ranked, semi-pro soccer team.

Wait, I read something about free beer? Yes, but probably not for you (hold on, keep reading, there's more free stuff further down). The Free Beer Movement was founded by Austinite Dan Wiersema, 27, who runs the website www.freebeermovement .com, after a soccer writer somewhat jokingly suggested only free beer could convert Americans sports fans.

Since its inception, the Free Beer Movement has become a national phenomenon with a simple, silly premise: Rabid soccer fans entice non-indoctrinated friends to watch a match by buying them a beer. The goal, a grassroots effort to move soccer from the margins of the American sports landscape into the mainstream by educating more people about the intricate beauty of the game, is quite serious. Wiersema believes more soccer fans in the U.S. means a more robust domestic soccer scene, and thus better soccer watching opportunities for everyone.

"People will do a lot of things for free stuff; they'll do even more for free beer," says Wiersema. "But free beer is just the medium. The message is sharing time with friends and family, and spreading your love of U.S. soccer."

A portion of Wiersema's website documents the Free Beer Movement's many successes, including President Bill Clinton sharing a brew with the U.S. National Team after their dramatic win over Algeria during the World Cup. Other regular website features include suggestions of beer pairings for upcoming weekend matches.

(There will be giveaways of goodies featuring the snazzy Free Beer Movement logo at the watching party.)

So come watch the Yanks hit the pitch against one of the world's most vaunted teams on Tuesday. But also consider joining the movement. Bring a soccer newbie, and buy him or her a beer.

U.S. vs. Brazil Watch Party

When: 7 p.m., Tuesday

Where: Mister Tramps. 8565 Research Blvd., 837-3500, www.mistertramps.com

Cost: Free

Information: www.austin.the americanoutlaws.com