The chant is as common as the national anthem. “I.” “I believe.” “I believe that…we will win.”
U.S. Soccer fans scream that repeat-after-me call during every national team match around the world, be it for the men’s national team — which, let’s face it, needs belief from the fans quite a bit these days — or the women’s national team, which has proven over the last few decades to warrant such a boastful refrain.
I believe that they will win every time the U.S. women’s national team takes the field. The fans believe that they will win, too. And most importantly, the players believe that they will win. Because most of the time, they do.
The 2017 SheBelieves Cup begins today, in Chester, as the U.S. Soccer women’s national team, the top team in the current FIFA rankings, hosts second-ranked Germany at Talen Energy Stadium at 7 p.m. The game follows a match between France and England, the third-and-fifth-ranked teams in the world, respectively.
The tournament is a series of three double-header matches over a week — USA plays England Mar. 4 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. after France and Germany play, then faces France at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. on Mar. 7 after Germany plays England — and the “winner” will be whichever team ends up with the most points. Teams earn three points for a win and one for a draw, with the first tie-breaker being goal differential, then goals scored, then head-to-head results, then FIFA ranking, thereby proving that this is less about winning a trophy and more about grabbing as much money as these four federations can for a week-long Mid-Atlantic barnstorming event masked as an actual competition.
Make no mistake, the U.S. women want to win. After their Olympic disaster last summer, bowing out in the quarterfinals — their worst major tournament result in history — earning a series of positive results is vital to keep interest going in what Jill Ellis and Co. had built after the 2015 Women’s World Cup victory.
SheBelieves was a campaign launched in the run-up to the World Cup, and was designed to help soccer (read: girl’s and women’s soccer) grow in the United States. The “My dream is to ___” signs given out at U.S. soccer events challenged young girls to dream big, and believe (get it) in those dreams.
“Listen up ladies: we believe in you. We believe in your dreams, in your goals and in your ability to reach them,” the kick-off statement signed by the members of the U.S. national team read. This now annual tour is an extension of that, a way to continue to connect fans to the cause and impress the importance of not only believing in yourself, but in each other. This, from the U.S. Soccer site last week:
What is SheBelieves?
Conceived and developed by the U.S. Women’s National Team players, SheBelieves is a movement to inspire young girls and women and encourage them to accomplish their goals and dreams, athletic or otherwise. The campaign was originally launched in the run-up to the 2015 Women’s World Cup but has since evolved and grown into a special bond between the team and its fans, taking its powerful message of empowerment and that of believing in yourself into communities across the nation.
That, or it’s a catchy hashtag that people still use so the U.S. Soccer Federation figured out a way to continue to monetize it. (Or maybe it’s both.)
Whatever it is, the USWNT brings a top squad to Chester tonight, led by local hero Carli Lloyd, who is four goals away from reaching 100 international goals, something only five other players in U.S. history have done. This will be Lloyd’s first match on American soil since signing with Manchester City, and it’s also a chance to see New Jersey-native and 2016 U.S. women’s player of the year Tobin Heath, as well as notable national team stars like Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn and Julie Johnston.
The U.S. match with Germany follows the England-France match that begins at 4 p.m., which means the crowd for the opener will be shall-we-say sparse. Frankly, the crowd for the U.S. match might be sparse as well. Tickets are still available in most seating locations, on both the Philadelphia Union ticket website and StubHub. Oh, and there’s a 50-percent chance of scattered thunderstorms and wind, so the whole night could be a wash.
Attendance to women’s national team games dipped in 2016, down 42 percent from their 10-city victory tour in 2015. The SheBelieves Cup does feature some of the best teams on the planet, so if fans care at all about quality women’s soccer, this is the local match to attend, but the Cup had modest attendance last year in other markets, and a warm but wet and windy mid-week game on the first of March can’t be an easy sell. Tickets go for as much as $250 for tonight’s double-header, with the cheapest seats listed at $36. Believe.