In July, the U.S. Women’s national team took soccer by storm with a World Cup win.
In December, the U.S. women’s team is bringing its road show to New Orleans.
The Superdome will host a match between Team USA and China on Dec. 16, the final stop on the team’s 10-match Victory Tour of the nation.
“In all honesty, it is the biggest soccer story in the history of New Orleans,” said Connor Melancon, president of the New Orleans chapter of the American Outlaws, the unofficial U.S. soccer support club. “Absolutely.”
The match, set for 7 p.m., will air on Fox Sports 1. Ticket information is to be announced “in the near future,” according to a news release.
It’s the second appearance by a U.S. national team in New Orleans and the first since the women’s team played Brazil at Tad Gormley Stadium in July of 2003. It will the first Team USA match in the Superdome.
The U.S. women’s team made waves in July with a World Cup championship that set television records and sparked soccer interest. Team USA’s title-match victory against Japan was the most-watched soccer match in American history.
But midfielder Lauren Holiday, who will retire from professional and international soccer later this month, said there’s a personal touch to the stops the U.S. team makes for exhibitions, including on its Victory Tour.
The current Victory Tour roster includes all 23 members of the World Cup championship team, including Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd, who scored three goals in the U.S. championship-game win.
“I think any city that we go into and they get to watch us play — and we sign autographs and we talk to girls and we’re real to them — it helps tremendously,” said Holiday, who also netted a goal in the championship match against Japan.
“They can meet one girl (on the team) and just be so inspired and continue to follow us. I think hitting all these cities and meeting our fans and interacting with our fans is huge for the women’s game.”
Holiday, the wife of New Orleans Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday, said it “would be nice” to play in front of fans in her new hometown, but said she’s confident with her decision to retire.
Among her goals in retirement, she said, is to help “grow the game” in New Orleans.
The city and the Gulf Coast region have been “underserved in a soccer capacity,” Melancon said, with teams in the MLS or any other significant professional soccer league.
But a national team exhibition represents a chance for New Orleans to prove it can be a hotbed for the sport.
“We’re looking at it as our legacy as American Outlaws New Orleans leadership that this is a successful event, so that in future generations, for future games, New Orleans is considered,” Melancon said. “It’s a great tourist destination. We have a great facility in the Superdome that holds a lot of people. It’s our responsibility to make sure that this game is supported and attended well. We’re going to do everything we can do bring as many people as we can.”
To that end, Melancon said, the American Outlaws will host a party the night before the USA-China match and a tailgate the day of the game that will be “open to all comers.” And the group plans to reach out to youth groups and club teams in the hopes of drawing a crowd to the Superdome on Dec. 16.
“I’m actually not a huge fan of football, and then I started to go to Saints games and I love it,” Holiday said. “So I’m excited for my teammates to just experience the culture here and the Superdome in general and how loud it can get. So I’m hoping there’s so many fans that (they) can make it as loud as the Saints games.”