They often say, “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.” A few Sundays ago, I finished a journey that started 2 decades ago in the same spot. Well, not exactly the same spot, but pretty darn close to it.
In ’99 I was lucky enough to sit near the tippy top of Soldier Field as the USWNT started their run towards their second world cup. My mom surprised me with the trip where they dominated over Nigeria with a 7-1 victory in their first game of group play. Needless to say I was instantly hooked and it was an unforgettable trip.
2 decades is a long time to go in between visits but I must say that it was worth the wait. Especially in terms of the seat upgrade. Plus, I once again got to share the experience with my mom, which made it extra special.
Sunday marked not only the last game of the USWNT 2019 World Cup Victory Tour, but also head coach Jill Ellis’ last game in that position. She was honored as the winningest coach in team history in a pre-game on-field ceremony, and the free giveaway of “Thank You, Jill” posters filled with all her stats as you entered the stadium.
From 1 Star to 4
Although they would earn their second star later that summer, the ’99ers were only just starting a journey to fame and popularity that would be unparalleled by any other team in women’s sports until that time. The most fun part of watching these teams for the better part of my adult life so far is to see the effect that it has on not only women my age, but little girls (and boys). Shout out to the little boy wearing a Megan Rapinoe celebration T-shirt, and to his mom for that matter for buying it for him.
As a 34-year-old woman, I was able to appreciate the sea of red, white, and blue that I was now surrounded by as we took a pre-game lap around the stadium. It’s something that I barely took notice of at 14, but everywhere I looked Sunday there were kids with handmade signs and people of all ages, races, sexual orientations, and genders dressed in full support of this group of outstanding athletes and role models.
Coming back wearing 4 stars on my jersey was about as surreal as it gets. As far as full circle goes this was it. The USWNT is about to enter a new phase once the first-ever general manager, former ’99er and Metro-Detroiter, Kate Markgraf, picks Ellis’ replacement for the upcoming Olympics. And once we see veterans such as Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe take on new roles both on and eventually off the field.
Two things are for sure though, I can’t wait to one day share my experiences with future generations and hopefully my own daughter(s) one day. Also, don’t even try to tell me that Lloyd was offside.
- / 10 months ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.