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    Photo by Chris Witzke

    Fans of Louisville City Football Club go by various names: the Heretics, the Black Sheep, Scouse’s House. Matt Owens is one of the Coopers, a group named after makers of bourbon barrels. When the United Soccer League team has a home game, Owens’ painted face resembles the professional wrestler Sting. (Another Cooper wears a lucha libre mask.) The 39-year-old has also donned a headpiece shaped like a T-bone steak. “The team has a lot of different supporters groups,” Owens says. “We were joking about just popping up a new one every week, and one of the funny names I spitballed was the Butchertown Meatheads. I pictured the Cheeseheads in Green Bay.” (FC shares a field with the Louisville Bats, though the team has plans to open its own stadium in Butchertown in 2020.)

    Photo: Matt Owens of the Coopers.

    Before each home game, the Coopers meet in a parking lot adjacent to the stadium. As game time approaches, the Coopers release purple smoke from handheld flares. Their drum line, the Groove Machine, bangs snares and bass drums. The mass of bodies wearing purple and gold team colors marches up Preston Street, turns left onto Main Street and funnels through the turnstiles at the main entrance. Inside Slugger Field, the Coopers occupy a section behind the goal along the third-base line. Some of them have started calling the section “the Rickhouse,” a reference to a warehouse where bourbon ages. Though every Cooper doesn’t attend every game, Owens estimates the group has more than 300 members.

    For now, FC is in the USL, a step below Major League Soccer. Could our soccer team be in the MLS one day? “Louisville’s a market with untapped potential,” Owens says. “It’s a college sports town, and there are no college sports during the summer. It’s a perfect opportunity.”

    FC plays two home games this month — versus Charlotte on the 7th and Richmond a week later, followed by the playoffs. When this story went to press, FC was in first place in the eastern conference.

    This originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

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