“Where you go we’ll follow, we’ll follow, we’ll follow, because we support the U.S.!”
About 70 men and women wearing various combinations of red, white and blue were chanting in front of a wall-size screen at midtown’s Alley Katz bar Monday, watching the U.S. Women’s National Team beat Australia 3-1 in its opening match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The fans were members of the Sacramento chapter of the American Outlaws, a national soccer supporters organization. Many had left work early to watch the game. Most are planning to do the same when the USWNT squares off against Sweden at 5 p.m. June 12.
While the group was enthusiastic in its support of the women’s national team, its numbers did not compare to those of a similar viewing party that the Outlaws threw for the World Cup last year, organizers said.
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It’s a trend that’s playing out in TV ratings as well. But while viewership of women’s soccer remains significantly lower than men’s, it’s growing. According to Nielsen Media Research, 3.3 million people watched Monday’s USWNT game, breaking the record for the most-watched Women’s World Cup group stage match. The previous record was 2.5 million in 1999 when the Women’s World Cup took place in the United States.
According to Joe Cook, 37, vice president of the Sacramento Outlaws, the USWNT deserves more attention – and respect. Cook cites a fundamental difference between the women’s and men’s national team: “You’ll never buy the wrong U.S. national team shirt. Do you know why? Because the women’s is the only one with two stars.”
Fans know those stars over the crest represent World Cup wins. The women’s national team is a two-time World Cup champion and ranks second in the world, behind Germany. The men’s team has never made it past the World Cup’s quarter finals.
Some soccer fans assume women’s games are less exciting. They couldn’t be more mistaken, said David Estrada, 27, forward for the Sacramento Republic FC. His girlfriend, Lauren Barnes, plays for the Seattle Reign FC, the team that is home to USWNT players Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe.
“In places like Portland, Oregon, that has Alex Morgan, a national team player, they have something like 4,000 people show up to watch games,” Estrada said, referring to the Portland Thorns FC, the 2013 Women’s National Soccer League champions. The Thorns broke the league’s attendance record with a crowd of 19,123 fans in a 2013 match against the Houston Dash.
Dawn Cole, president of the Sacramento Valley Women’s Soccer League, believes that Women’s World Cup soccer fans just might be less visible than other fans. Many prefer to watch at home rather than in bars, she said.
“I don’t think it’s a lack of support,” Cole said, who is attending the Women’s World Cup in Canada. “Watching games in pubs and bars just doesn’t seem to have caught on with the women as much as the men’s games.”
Cook said that, in the end, the most important factor is recognizing that the USWNT is, without a doubt, playing beautiful soccer.
“The U.S. women have a real chance to win,” he said. “We should all be getting behind them and giving them 100 percent of our support.”
Where to watch the Women’s World Cup
Looking for a place to watch the USWNT take on Sweden on June 12? Here are four Sacramento bars airing matches. The U.S. next plays Nigeria on June 16.
▪ Alley Katz; 2019 O St.; (916) 442-2682
The bar is home to the Sacramento chapter of the American Outlaws. It has a new audio and video system, and it is roomy enough for a crowd. Most of the Outlaws-organized viewing parties offer food and drink specials.
▪ Bonn Lair; 3651 J St.; (916) 455-7155
This cozy bar with a European flair will be showing every game of the Women’s World Cup.
▪ De Vere’s; 1521 L St.; (916) 231-9947
This Irish pub boasts nine flat-screen televisions and a bunch of specials for viewing parties, most of which are put together by the Sacramento Republic FC, a partner with the pub.
▪ Zebra Club; 1900 P St.; (916) 442-3972
This dive bar with a cool atmosphere and friendly clientele opens early and shows games on a handful of televisions.