Red Lyon Tavern heats up as Sporting KC continues its MLS playoff run

photo by: Andrew Rosenthal

Red Lyon general manager Chris Neverve stands at the entrance of the soccer-crazed tavern in Downtown Lawrence.

“No other tavern!” Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. “But Red Lyon!” Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap.

Those are the sounds that come from Red Lyon Tavern, 944 Massachusetts St. in downtown Lawrence pretty much any time there’s a soccer match of interest being played anywhere around the world.

And it was a vision of general manager Chris Neverve to create a scene that uses its European vibe to scream “Goal” from wall to wall.

Since the founding of the Kansas City Wizards franchise in 1995, Red Lyon has become Lawrence’s headquarters for everything soccer. When the Wizards were rebranded to become Sporting KC a few years back, Red Lyon merely grew with the franchise and now hosts watch parties for everything from the World Cup to the Kansas women’s soccer team.

“For (20 years), we were the only bar — before Sporting came along — to even show any soccer,” Neverve said.

It successfully became Neverve’s niche to make Red Lyon stand out, and he’s proud to be different.

There’s no doubt that Red Lyon is the place where the diehard soccer fan in Lawrence can feel welcome to have a conversation about soccer. Even Kansas coach Mark Francis has dropped in from time to time during the past six months.

A family that grew up around soccer, Neverve’s parents now own a bar that provides an atmosphere that makes fans feel right back in the KC Cauldron at Children’s Mercy Park.

Both Chris, a 1998 graduate of Lawrence High, and his brother Brett, who graduated from LHS in 1997, played soccer in high school for the Lions. Brett even went on to play goalkeeper at the University of Southern Colorado in Pueblo.

Because of it being a 30-minute drive to Sporting KC’s venue, the bar is rather quiet during home games. That all changes when the team is on the road. In 2013, when the club won its first MLS cup, Red Lyon drew a crowd of close to 80 soccer-crazed Sporting KC supporters.

“People are into it,” Neverve said. “The big matches, people are chanting and totally into the game.”

It’s no surprise that the tavern flaunts dozens of soccer scarves on its walls, but a casual fan might be confused at the sight of a dark campanile silhouetted on a baby blue soccer scarf initialed “MSM” at the bottom. It was one of the first that belonged to the Lawrence’s Sporting KC support group, the Mass Street Mob.

“What’s a little bit different about Sporting is that there’s a bunch of smaller supporter groups that make up the cauldron area,” Neverve said.

Lawrence now has two of those. Along with “The Mob,” a group of diehards formed the new “Free State Firm.” Red Lyon also played host to the Lawrence branch of the American Outlaws, the U.S. National team’s support group.

Sporting KC plays host to the Portland Timbers at 8:30 p.m. Thursday for a chance to go to the MLS final.


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