On Oct. 6, 2017, the familiar FIFA anthem played, the sky lit up and the U.S. Men’s National Team played its first ever match at Orlando City Stadium. With every touch from Christian Pulisic, every tackle from Matt Besler, every shot from Jozy Altidore, the crowd seemed to simultaneously hold its breath yet break the sound barrier.
Or so I’ve been told. I wasn’t there.
I was actually on the road with Orlando Pride, covering the team’s NWSL playoff match in Portland. The night before the semifinal, we all flicked on our respective hotel TV screens and saw our home showcased, in all of its purple glory, as the U.S. MNT downed Panama 4-0 in front of a raucous crowd.
I heard the stories from everyone in the front office. I read the articles. I watched the highlights. But at the end of the day, I wasn’t in the stadium to experience the thrill, the excitement and the energy that comes when all of Orlando City Stadium breaks out in chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
But lucky for me, I have another chance. Nearly five months to the day, 655 West Church St. will don the red, white and blue once again. This time, America’s Women will take the spotlight.
U.S. Soccer’s third annual SheBelieves Cup will make its final stop in Central Florida on March 7, hosting two matches between four of the world’s top six teams. At 4 p.m., the day begins with No. 2 Germany battling No. 6 France. Then, the world’s best U.S. Women’s National Team will round out the tournament with a 7 p.m. tilt against No. 3 England, who will be playing their first matches under newly appointed manager Phil Neville (yes, that Phil Neville).
And this is a crowd I know.
In 2009, I was seated in the top row of section 117 at Marina Auto Stadium in Rochester, N.Y. when Abby Wambach scored her 100th international goal in front of her home crowd. In 2015, I lost my voice inside Montreal’s Olympic Stadium when the WNT beat Germany to punch its ticket to the Women’s World Cup Final (which they won, by the way). And just last year, I traveled to Cincinnati to see over 30,000 supporters fill Nippert Stadium with American pride.
Whether in March or October, Rochester or Orlando, the fire, the passion and the shiver that runs down your spine as the American Outlaws pound the drums is intoxicating. With every touch from Tobin Heath, every tackle from Becky Sauerbrunn and every shot from Alex Morgan.
So trust me, on March 7, you just need to see it to SheBelieves it.