The 2023 Women’s World Cup begins this week. The competition gets underway on July 20 when co-hosts Australia and New Zealand kick off against Republic of Ireland and Norway, respectively. The USWNT begins their quest for a third consecutive title on July 22 in Group E against Vietnam. But fans in the US did not get much of an opportunity to see their team in action before they left for the tournament. Instead of a “send off series” of multiple games, US Soccer scheduled just one friendly, which the US won 2-0 against Wales on Sunday, July 9.
Considering the game was a sell-out of 18,000 at PayPal Park in San Jose, it’s a shame that US Soccer did not have more games set up.
Send off series have been successful in the past
Prior to each of the last three Women’s World Cups, US Soccer staged series of games to send the USWNT off in style. Most of them were played in front of packed houses. However, 2011 was the one year that was a tremendous disappointment.
|5/14/11||USA vs. Japan||Historic Crew Stadium||5,234|
|5/18/11||USA vs. Japan||WakeMed Soccer Park||5,538|
|6/5/11||USA vs. Mexico||Red Bull Arena||5,852|
Following the dramatic run to the final at the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany, however, the popularity of the USWNT exploded and the send-off games for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada was a much bigger hit. All three games sold out.
|5/10/15||USA vs. Republic of Ireland||PayPal Park||18,000|
|5/17/15||USA vs. Mexico||Dignity Health Sports Park||27,000|
|5/30/15||USA vs. South Korea||Red Bull Arena||26,467|
The US went on to win the Women’s World Cup that year and the excitement for the 2019 edition in France was palpable. The crowds for that year’s send-off series reflected that excitement.
|5/12/19||USA vs. South Africa||Levi’s Stadium||22,788|
|5/16/19||USA vs. New Zealand||Busch Stadium||35,761|
|5/26/19||USA vs. Mexico||Red Bull Arena||26,332|
USMNT didn’t get a send-off series either
Unfortunately, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the USWNT didn’t get a full send-off series this year. Just last year, the USMNT didn’t get one either. Yes, the World Cup being moved to the winter made it more difficult. But the last time US fans got to see the USMNT at home before the World Cup was a Nations League game in Austin, TX on June 10. That’s five and a half months before their World Cup opener against Wales. And perhaps not so coincidentally, 2022 was the worst year for USMNT attendance since 2006.
Fortunately for the USWNT this year, the gap between final home game and Women’s World Cup opener is not nearly that long, with the game against Wales falling just 13 days before their opener against Vietnam. They did also manage to get the She Believes Cup played on home soil in February plus a pair of friendlies in April. But those are not true send-off games.
US Soccer hoping for victory tour instead
It’s a safe bet that in the absence of a send-off series, US Soccer is hoping and praying that the USWNT wins their third straight Women’s World Cup so they can cash in on a victory tour. The post-title victory tours in 2015 and 2019 proved to be quite profitable with the US women drawing some of their largest ever crowds (excluding those at the 1999 Women’s World Cup).
But US Soccer has long been an organization that has wanted its cake and to it eat it too. Surely they could have made even more money (and given fans an opportunity to see the team) had they done a send-off series rather than just hoping they could do a victory tour.
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