The Wellington Takeover
The United States Women's National Team had a pivotal match in Wellington, New Zealand on July 27th, taking on the Netherlands in their second group stage match of the 2023 Women's World Cup. The USWNT and the Netherlands last saw each other in a Women's World Cup back in the 2019 Final, where the USWNT won 2-0 behind goals from Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle. Having this match come in Group E play had fans in Wellington feel like they were preparing for another final.

The American Outlaws began in part because some of the co-founders attended the 2006 Men's World Cup in Germany, only to find that there were no events that helped bring American fans together to get ready for the matches. They wanted that sense of community, a home away from home, and it's why the Night Before Party and the pregame tailgates have forever been a staple of our organization. That's why in Wellington, Shed 22 became our home away from home as tens of thousands of American fans descended on New Zealand's capital city for the match.

The Night Before Party was a festive atmosphere, with hundreds of members and U.S. fans alike meeting each other and having a great time while celebrating the fact that they were in this beautiful city of Wellington. They came from Denver, DC, San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, Austin, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Long Island, and so many other cities in the United States. Some had been in New Zealand for a few days, while others came from around the world to be there. The shared experiences of long travel, missed connections, and even late hotel check-ins were common bonding topics of discussion as fans shifted their focus to the match, their favorite players, or tactics they hoped to see. It was the place to be in Wellington, and fans were appreciative of there being a place to gather with other Americans who had made it to Wellington for the match.

Late nights turned quickly to early mornings, as with the 1:00pm local time kickoff, the AO Game Day started at 8:00am. Members were able to grab some breakfast and coffee, but of course other drinks were available for those ready to turn the party up at the early hour. Shed 22 was buzzing. Well over 1000 people showed up to fill the venue as well as the space it had outside, including the mini plaza that opened onto the Commonwealth Walkway that led to the stadium. More people showed up prompted by a few Americans on the local news letting all of Wellington know that Shed 22 was the place to be for all American fans headed to the match. After a few hours, it was time for the fans to rally and gather outside to take on the march.

And march. we. did. With well over 1000 people gathered on the Commonwealth Walkway, the march began, with everyone singing some of the songs that bring us together: We Love Ya, Oh When The Yanks, Everywhere We Go, and of course, U-S-A. The drums were the marching beat as each chant filled the air with excitement and anticipation. Shed 22 was about a 25 minute walk from Sky Stadium, but on every twist and turn of the walkway, we gained more fans who wanted to be a part of it. 1000 fans easily became 2500 as fans saw the march and decided to join in. 10 minutes into the march, the sea of fans stretched so far back, there were people still at Shed 22 who had not yet begun to walk! Loud and proud, it was made clear to the city of Wellington that the U.S. was here.

We made it to Sky Stadium, and fans dispersed to their seats for the match. Despite there being no true American section of fans, small pockets of Americans formed throughout the stadium, particularly a small one around the drums. That made it helpful for the atmosphere to be incredible inside the stadium as the match began. Once again, the drums carried the beat as U.S. fans rallied behind our beloved USWNT. An early Dutch goal didn't stop the support, as fans continued to sing and cheer to hopefully spur the USWNT onto an equalizer. The Dutch fans also provided some noise for their team, creating an atmosphere that was among the best so far in this tournament. The only thing that really attempted to stop the atmosphere from building was security, initially telling the drums to sit before being told by the fans behind them that the drums and chanting was exactly what was needed to carry the day.

When Lindsey Horan headed in that equalizer in the 2nd half, the stadium erupted. American fans rejoiced as the team celebrated in the far corner, "U-S-A" reverberating around the stadium. There was a moment where we thought Alex Morgan had the game-winner, prompting more celebrations. However, those were quickly muted by the show of the offside flag. The match eventually ended 1-1, leaving the USWNT in first place in Group E but still with work to do to win the group and move onto the knockout stage.

For those fans inside of Sky Stadium, they saw two incredible teams go at it once again. The USWNT and the Netherlands might cross paths again down the line, but for now, the focus turns back to Auckland, where a group stage finale with Portugal awaits on August 1st. Once again, tens of thousands of American fans will be there, because wherever the USWNT goes, we'll follow.

July 30, 2023