Between a ticker tape parade through New York’s Canyon of Heroes and an invitation to visit Congress for a victory celebration, the World Cup champion U.S. Women’s National Team has experienced an unprecedented popularity surge. Now after their dominant run through the tournament, they’re beginning to see that acclaim inspire a remarkable growth of interest in their sport.
Case in point: on August 18, the National Women’s Soccer League schedule features a contest between Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long’s Reign FC and Carli Lloyd’s Sky Blue FC. Normally, Sky Blue’s home games are held at Rutgers University’s 5,000-seat Yurcak Field.
However, due to unprecedented demand for tickets to see these top stars of the USWNT do battle with one another, the Sky Blue/Reign match has been moved to Newark’s 25,000-seat Red Bull Arena. And it’s entirely due to so many fans wanting to see Rapinoe, Lloyd, and Long in person.
Red Bull Arena is normally the home of MLS’s New York Red Bulls club. Which means that this is the first instance of the US Women literally taking over a space that had previously been reserved just for men.
When the USWNT started its crusade for equal pay, a popular talking point against the notion was parroted by The Daily Wire’s Ashe Schow who claimed “the main reason women soccer players aren’t paid as much as men is due to the fact that there is simply less interest from viewers.” So this might be the first time in sports history where the “Guess Today’s Attendance” game counts as smack talk.
After news of the venue change reached the Sky Blue players, Lloyd expressed her genuine appreciation for USWNT fans: “We’re beyond excited that we have to move the game to Red Bull Arena because fan interest is so high,” she said. “This will be a great experience for my teammates and another opportunity for Sky Blue to continue building toward a successful and sustainable future.”
Lloyd makes a very important point. All of the women involved in the USWNT have been able to personally see the results of what they’ve accomplished thanks to an endless succession of welcome home parades and celebrations. But for most of the players on Sky Blue and Reign, this will be the first time they’ve seen a crowd of this magnitude. With that in mind, their match should be quite an emotional and inspiring sight to behold.
Thanks to the efforts of Rapinoe, Long, and Lloyd, we’re all getting used to those words being used to describe women’s soccer.