How USA fans watched the World Cup after USWNT exit


SYDNEY — After Bill and Heather Drake took their two daughters to see the U.S. ladies’s nationwide group compete in the group stage video games of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, the American group went on to win the complete factor in a charming run by way of the knockout stage. So, when the 2023 match rolled round, this time the Drakes needed to see the U.S. in the later rounds.

They booked flights from Detroit, Michigan to Auckland, New Zealand — a journey day of round 24 hours — the place they deliberate to see the USWNT compete in the quarterfinals and semifinals, each set to happen in Auckland. Two days earlier than their flight, nevertheless, they awakened at 5 a.m. and watched on TV as Sweden knocked the Americans out in the spherical of 16.

– Women’s World Cup: Landing web page | Schedule | Rosters | News
– Stream on ESPN+: LALIGA, Bundesliga, extra (U.S.)

“It was heartbreaking,” Heather stated. “I was happy — I felt like they were playing well. Up until that game, I didn’t think they were playing like the U.S. team that we expected. So I was excited — I was like, ‘OK, maybe this can happen.'”

But then it did not occur. The U.S. beforehand had by no means failed to succeed in the semifinals of a Women’s World Cup, however after a 0-0 impasse, the round-of-16 match turned to penalty kicks, the place Sweden gave the Americans a stunning early exit.

And with that, numerous journey itineraries went up in smoke for USWNT fans.

The Drakes and their daughters, Claire and Claudia, made the most of their journey, chatting with ESPN on a ferry bringing them again to Auckland’s downtown from picturesque Waiheke Island. But when first confronted with the notion of flying round the world to see a group that was now not even in the World Cup, it was arduous to not really feel let down.

“It was a little disappointing,” Bill stated. “The more the thought sunk in, the more disappointing it got.”



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Fans based mostly in the United States purchased almost 100,000 tickets for the Women’s World Cup, in keeping with FIFA — the most of any nation outdoors host international locations Australia and New Zealand. That’s quite a lot of disenchanted fans, a few of whom may need by no means had an opportunity to observe their group play as they banked on the U.S. making it deeper into the match.

On Saturday at the Auckland airport, a well-recognized scene performed out at an Air New Zealand gate the place passengers waited to fly to Sydney, the host metropolis of a semifinal sport and the ultimate. Two units of strangers, a household of 4 — a mother, dad, daughter and son — and a few ladies (one carrying a Portland Thorns T-shirt) shared updates on the ongoing Australia-France sport and acknowledged one another as Americans and bought to chatting.

“You’re here for the World Cup too?” “Yep. We’re from L.A. Where are you from?” “The Bay Area.” “Ah.” They had rearranged their plans when the USWNT bought knocked out, and the discuss shortly turned to the group and questioning coach Vlatko Andonovski’s selection of lineups and substitutions.

Upstairs at the Auckland airport that night time, Tehya Mondala was taking part in playing cards together with her dad, Bryan, and her mother, Helen. They have been ready for his or her flight to move again to San Diego after watching the USWNT in solely one in all the three video games they’d deliberate to see. They attended the group stage sport in opposition to Portugal, however when the USWNT did not win the group and took an sudden path, the household could not see the group in the spherical of 16 — after which, properly, the Americans weren’t even in the quarterfinals.

“We knew that was a risk — although it’s the first time in history it happened,” Bryan Hageman stated. “We weren’t going to change our hotel and our airfare and everything else.”

The group’s poor kind early in the match had braced the household for the chance beforehand, Bryan added: “Before we came here, we knew in that Portugal game they had to score four goals and they didn’t look like they were going to score one goal, even before the game.”

Some fans did rearrange their plans, nevertheless.

Before the match began, the consensus prediction was that the U.S. would win Group E, which meant that the group would have performed its round-of-16 match in Sydney earlier than returning to New Zealand for a quarterfinal in Wellington. (The organizers of the match, FIFA, thought the identical and plotted a schedule the place the winner of Group E would play regionally in the afternoon so the video games may air throughout primetime for an American TV viewers.)

But the U.S. ending second in the group meant a detour to the spherical of 16 in Melbourne, Australia, after which a return to Auckland for the quarterfinal. (Those video games have been set to be performed at night time regionally, which meant kickoff occasions in the center of the night time again in the United States.)

Cassidy Fialkiewicz and Zion Moore of Seattle booked journey from Auckland to Sydney, anticipating the Americans to high their group, however made an impromptu 24-hour whirlwind journey to Melbourne to observe the group when the path modified. The pair managed to get last-minute match tickets and flights, in order that they went for it.

“Our base is in Sydney because we thought they were going to be in Sydney,” Cassidy stated on the day of the U.S.-Sweden sport. “We flew in this morning and we’re leaving tomorrow at 6 a.m. and no hotel.”

Asked what she’d do if the USWNT unexpectedly bought knocked out that night time, she stated she deliberate to make the most of the World Cup. “I love soccer,” Cassidy stated. “We’re just going to go to Sydney and watch some good football. That’s what it’s all about.”

But the World Cup has largely continued on with out the U.S. fans who’ve been such a presence at previous tournaments — together with the American Outlaws, the superfans who journey in teams to main tournaments and friendlies for each the males’s and ladies’s nationwide groups. Monica Bosiljevac of the American Outlaws estimated that about 3,000 fans attended the march to the stadium earlier than the USA-Netherlands group sport in Wellington, similar to the turnout in Paris for the USWNT’s 2019 quarterfinal in opposition to France.

“It seems less accessible, or like less people are traveling here than they did for Canada [in 2015] or France because it’s a longer trip, but I’ll say that the turnout for AO has still been blowing us out of the water,” Bosiljevac stated early in the match when the U.S. was nonetheless in it.



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Of fans who made the American Outlaws occasions a part of their itinerary, a well-liked selection was to plan to see the third sport of the group stage after which proceed on to the knockout stage. Some fans hedged their bets, reserving refundable choices for the USWNT successful the group or ending second.

That means some American fans, in fact, have been left having to search out new groups to root for. Many U.S. fans had tickets to observe the quarterfinal in Auckland that, with out the USWNT, changed into a match-up between Sweden and Japan. Early on, it grew to become clear many Americans have been rooting in opposition to Sweden, the group that despatched the U.S. house.

The Drakes had tickets to that sport, too. When ESPN requested whether or not they’d be rooting for Sweden or Japan, they did not hesitate, all responding in unison: “Japan.”

Of course, Sweden knocked Japan out of the match that night time. American fans simply cannot catch a break at the 2023 Women’s World Cup.


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