It is "Inside Everton Week" all this week on Bleacher Report, and on Wednesday we take a look at the club's famously passionate support—in particular how the Toffees have developed a fervent and knowledgeable American fanbase.
Everton may be known as "The People's Club" and have a reputation for strong links with the local community, but to a certain extent these days, every Premier League club is owned by the world as well. Games are watched, debated and analysed in all corners of the globe, with fans thousands of miles away every bit as passionate about the team they support as those fortunate to live close enough to buy season tickets.
Many of those overseas fans, quite naturally, support the biggest and most visible clubs, the Manchester Uniteds and Chelseas of this world, who have many of their games beamed to vast audiences. But Everton more than punch above their weight in that regard, thanks not only to the quality of the football they produce, but the ethos the club projects and the way they engage with their new fans.
"The last few pre-seasons it has hit us how many fans we do have out there," club legend Graeme Sharp told Bleacher Report. "We might not be in the Manchester Uniteds of this world but in America, because we've had so many players, and Thailand—where we went [on tour] last summer, where so many fans came to see us, ex-players—it is amazing.
"The fanbase is out there, and it's important to reach out and connect with them."
In the United States in particular, the club has a thriving fanbase, built in great part on the strong history the Toffees have with American players—from current goalkeeper Tim Howard ("The Secretary of Defense") to previous players Landon Donovan, Brian McBride and Joe-Max Moore.
The club has embraced that community—helping members of the 60 different supporters' clubs book advance tickets for games, as well as licensing them to produce their own club merchandise—and has reaped the rewards, with supporter numbers rivalling larger clubs and their passion arguably leading the way.
"Tim Howard has been the most important in helping our club reach all the newly minted U.S. fans looking for an EPL club," said Marshall Lamm of Everton USA, now the team's official supporters' group in the States. "There are many stories of Landon stopping fans wearing Everton kits at MLS games and talking Everton with them. Joe-Max Moore will always be an Everton fan favourite.
"When Everton USA heads to Liverpool, as we're doing for the derby and Chelsea games this year, all our Merseyside friends come out, show us a good time and marvel at the Americans who vacation in Liverpool!
"The authenticity of the fans, the club and all their grassroots efforts to spread the Everton brand in positive ways are well-received by Americans. Everton is a real community of like-minded people who are fanatical about their club, and every EPL fan wants to experience that part of English football."
U.S.-based Toffees fans regularly rise early to meet up with like-minded fans to watch and enjoy Everton's league games, and they discuss them extensively on Internet forums and social media.
Bleacher Report spoke to a selection of Everton's American fans, to discover what attracted them to the club and how they follow their team. What follows is in their own words.
Marshall Lamm and David Kurtz, Everton USA
From chairman Bill Kenwright to every Scouser we come into contact with, Evertonians have supported their American following with nothing but enthusiasm and acceptance.
Overall, we think there are some key reasons why Americans love Everton:
1. Tim Howard is arguably the greatest football player the U.S. has ever produced, and there is no one more dedicated to spreading the love of Everton worldwide than "The Secretary of Defense". Everton USA created Tim Howard Appreciation Day on August 16, raising money for Everton in the Community.
2. "If you know your history..."—Everton is one of the most celebrated clubs in the history of European football, and when you scratch the surface of our history, you can't help but fall in love.
3. We have the most engaged fans in the world! Everton has no casual fans. Every Evertonian is fully engaged and knows the team thoroughly. If you see someone wearing an Everton kit in the U.S., it means they know football and they live Everton. Everton's support is notoriously the most fervent and the most friendly, and the combination is just intoxicating.
4. Everton is "The People's Club," and they operate with that motto at the forefront. For over 100 years, Everton has been focused on making their community a better place. The club listens to us and we listen to them. And we don't merely support Everton; WE ARE EVERTON!
Joanna Hayes, Everton New York City Supporters' Club
First and foremost, many of our members feel that the club picked us, not the other way around. After all, Evertonians are born, not manufactured.
There's also something in the fact that the port cities of Liverpool and New York City share many commonalities. We have the Hudson River and Liverpool has the Mersey. Frederick Law Olmsted designed Central Park after visiting Birkenhead Park in 1850. And we both have rich and diverse urban populations and culture, and play host to some of the nation's biggest sports teams.
Many of us have been lucky enough to visit Liverpool, and we all feel right at home among the people, especially the Blues. It's a special city, and Everton is a special club.
Keven Chavez, Chairman, Southern California Everton
Everyone's journey to becoming an Everton supporter in America is unique.
There are many ex-pats who were born and raised Blue and have kept that spirit alive in the U.S. cities they call home. Many fans were likely drawn by the American players, past and present, who wore the Everton shirt with pride. For others, it's Everton's unique, appealing history.
That tradition of American players certainly makes a big difference. But those players are simply a bridge for fans to really get to know the club—what really makes us Evertonians is getting to know the history and tradition of Everton, which is second to none.
Also, the tireless work of Everton supporters' groups, under the leadership of Everton USA, is inspiring, and every visitor to every club across the U.S. should know there are Evertonians here to make you feel at home and with whom you can enjoy watching a match any time.
Andrew Hall, Memphis Toffees
Everton doesn't shy away from us Yankees, and that helps Everton stay relevant in our media.
There have also been a number of American players who have played for Everton, and all have raved about their experience and how they have utterly and completely fallen in love with the club.
Also, Everton brought the world the Holy Trinity, Dixie Dean and much, much more besides.
Cameron Jones, Carolina Supporters' Club
I can hold my head high and take pleasure in knowing I support a genuine football club driven by its community and supporters rather than simply by money.
An example is the way Everton and its fans always stood by the side of their greatest rivals, Liverpool, during the darkest days of the Hillsborough tragedy.
The first time I saw a game at Goodison, even on television, the passion from the fans stood out. I remember watching an interview with Landon Donovan on his first game there and how the fans alerted him that he had a man closing in on him from behind and how remarkable that was for him.
As a soccer lover from the States, that passion is something that we strive for and admire.
For more information about all of Everton's supporters' clubs and how to contact them, please visit evertonfc.com/supportersclubs.