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Excitement, TV Ratings Show Kansas City Is Really Into The Women's World Cup

Kansas City Power & Light
Fans gathered to watch the women's World Cup semifinals Tuesday at Power & Light.

In Kansas City, the U.S. women’s soccer team had its most visible display of support Tuesday night during their semifinal match against Germany. The match was shown live in the outdoor courtyard area of the Power & Light District in downtown Kansas City.

But before Tuesday’s match, there were already signs of strong Kansas City support. Since the women’s World Cup started, there have been ongoing discussions of an outdoor gathering in the Power & Light District — something like the many celebrations the district organized during the men's World Cup last year.

But scheduling conflicts and other obstacles prevented it until the Americans reached the semifinals. Until the semis, watch parties were scattered throughout the area.

Pockets of fans watched the women take on China last Friday night at a Westport bar. Ross Uteneuer, a fan at one of the tables, sensed that interest would grow as long as the U.S. team moved closer to the title game.

“If you’re into it, if you follow men’s and women’s, I think as the women’s team gets better each game and they get more of a following, hopefully, you can get the same results that the men did at Power & Light,” he says.

Last year, thousands of fans crammed the courtyard area of the Power & Light district for the men’s World Cup. In contrast, last Friday, the stage was set instead for live music.

Downtown resident Lisa Drossart watched the U.S. score their only goal on a small screen in a Power & Light bar. She was encouraged by the number of people watching.

“I think the number of people here is great,” says Drossart. “The fact that anybody is supporting women’s soccer is fantastic.”

The bottom line is Kansas City is watching. “It’s absolutely tremendous,” says Servando Carrasco, whose wife, Alex Morgan, is a striker on the national team. “It’s just a reflection of the community here and how they’ve embraced the sport and how the growth still continues. It’s awesome to be involved in it and just to see first-hand the support from this city has been incredible.”

Dom Dwyer, Sporting KC’s leading scorer last year, got married in January to national team member Sydney Leroux. Plus, four players from the local women’s professional team, FC Kansas City, are on the U.S. squad — Becky Sauerbrunn, Heather O’Reilly, Amy Rodriguez and Lauren Holiday.

Sporting KC defender Matt Besler at this time a year ago was in Brazil as part of the men’s national team. Back at home, Besler says he likes the support that Kansas City has demonstrated.

“This town is crazy for soccer and we’ve been proving it for a number of years now,” says Besler. “It’s fun to see. It’s exciting to be a part of and I think it does make a difference in the end.”

The TV ratings reflect Kansas City’s interest. For the FOX television broadcast, Kansas City ranked No. 1 last Friday in Team USA’s 1-0 win over China among U.S. markets. Since the beginning of the women’s World Cup, Kansas City ranks fifth.

That viewership inspires young players to get on the field and improve, says FC Kansas City’s technical director Huw Williams.

“It gives the opportunity for young American players, coming straight out of college, to hone their skills here in this country with the idea and the concept of trying to make that U.S. national team one day,” he says.

By virtue of their win over Germany, the U.S. women advanced to their fourth World Cup final. No other country has accomplished that in women’s soccer.

While the men’s national team is trying to catch up to the world’s elite teams, the rest of the world is trying to keep pace with the U.S. women. From first-hand contact with his wife, Alex Morgan, ServandoCarrascso senses that the team’s fate is still on an upswing.

“I talk to her almost every day,” says Carrasco. “The team’s in good spirits. I think that they’re definitely building. Every game has gone better and better and better. I think that they’re peaking at the right moment.”

With the championship match looming for the U.S. team, TV ratings for FOX also figure to peak. This is what the women’s team has been working toward. Now they know, especially in Kansas City, they’ve got plenty of support.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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