Fontainebleau High School midfielder Sadie Dickinson watched every minute of every game the United States played on its way to winning the Women’s World Cup in soccer this summer.
That’s why she can’t wait to see the U.S. women’s national team in person this Wednesday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. When the U.S. takes on China in an international friendly to wrap up a nine-game Victory Tour, Dickinson and almost all of her teammates will be there to cheer them on.
The match will start at 7 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
On their way to routing Japan 5-2 in the World Cup final, the U.S. team became a national phenomenon, continuing the rise in popularity that began when the women won the World Cup in 1999 on home soil. The 25.4 million television viewers for the victory against Japan in Vancouver, British Columbia, shattered the record for the most-watched English-language soccer telecast (men or women) in the U.S. It also had the fifth-highest number of viewers for a non-NFL sporting event this year, trailing only the college football semifinals and final and NCAA men’s basketball championship game.
“I’m extremely excited to see them play,” Dickinson said. “It’s definitely a great opportunity, because it’s going to be really fun to all be sitting together as a team. It’s awesome, because we never really get this opportunity.”
Although the attendance for the victory tour game in San Antonio against Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday was a disappointing 10,690, most of the others have attracted big crowds. A 3-1 victory against Brazil on Oct. 25 in Orlando, Florida, drew 32,689, the most ever for a women’s soccer game in the state. The opener in Pittsburgh on Aug. 16 drew 44,028 fans.
The last time the U.S. women’s team played in New Orleans was 2003 at Tad Gormley Stadium.
“It’s huge, it really is,” Fontainebleau coach Carly Hotard said. “Not that we play the feminist card that much, but it’s just good for these girls to see that there is a future and it can be done at this level and there are some positive things from being a female athlete.”
The New Orleans game will be the 255th and last national-team appearance for Abby Wambach, who announced her retirement in October. She has scored 184 goals, the international record for any male or female.
Fontainebleau player Bailey Tadlock watches a Wambach tribute before every game to get pumped up.
“It’s really awesome to have that much talent and see people come from America and go to normal colleges and build themselves to that level,” Dickinson said. “It inspires me because when I play, I think, ‘Wow, I just want to play as good as they do.’ Bailey’s always like, ‘coach Hotard, am I going to be Abby Wambach for that day, can I be that good?’”
The victory tour has a dual purpose, serving as a chance for fans across the country to celebrate the World Cup title, as well preparing the team for the CONCACAF Olympics qualifying tournament in February.
“The celebration has been just phenomenal,” said Christen Press, a forward who scored one goal in the World Cup and had three in the second half against Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday after entering as a substitute. “Everywhere we’ve gone, the fans receive us so well, and it means the world to be able to share that experience with all of them. We’re really grateful to continue that excitement and build back up into the Olympics next year.”
Fans attending Wednesday’s match will receive a bonus: real competition. The U.S., which beat China 1-0 in the World Cup quarterfinals, overwhelmed lesser opponents like Trinidad & Tobago and Haiti in other victory tour games.
Dickinson and her teammates should be in for a treat.
“It’s really significant because we’re always trying to push and reach higher levels and grow the game and get more eyes when we’re playing it,” Press said. “When they watch it, they enjoy it, and that’s how fans are born.”