We are inching closer to the start of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup on Thursday. And Illinois will be well represented at the World Cup being contested in Australia and New Zealand.
Soccer frequently takes a backseat in the US. However, that all changes when it’s World Cup time.
In Illinois, soccer is slowly gaining popularity. The evidence for that is shown by the fan support of the MLS club, the Chicago Fire FC, and the NWSL club, the Chicago Red Stars.
So you can fully expect the local bars and restaurants to be packed once the action starts on Thursday.
Players with Illinois connections competing in the 2023 Women’s World Cup
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is being held from July 20 to Aug. 20. The month-long tournament features 32 national teams, each with a squad of 23 players. According to Illinois sports betting sites, Team USA is the favorite to secure the squad’s third World Cup win in a row.
Across the world’s biggest women’s soccer event, there will be several competitors that have connections to Illinois. So, while most of us will be cheering for a Team USA three-peat, there will be a few others rooting for some individual success from players from other countries.
Alyssa Naeher – United States
Alyssa Naeher (above) is a name that we will hear a lot during this World Cup tournament. She has been the United States’ undisputed top goalkeeper for the past seven years.
Folks in Illinois may recognize her from minding the net for the Chicago Red Stars for the past seven seasons. Since joining the club in 2006, Naeher has played in 97 matches for the Red Stars, including multiple semi-final matches, a finals match against North Carolina and the 2020 Challenge Cup Final against Houston. She also attended Penn State University.
At the World Cup, Naeher can cement her legacy in team history for the US Women. The goalkeeper position has had a clear succession line since 1999. The top goalie has gone from Briana Scurry to Hope Solo and now Naeher. She’s already been a part of two World Cup championship squads and won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Nahaer has been a steady hand for the United States, and a win in this year’s World Cup would put her in contention with Solo as the best goalkeeper in team history. She already has one more World Cup title than Solo. However, it is important to note that she was a backup in 2015 when Solo won her World Cup. But if the US three-peats, that would put Naeher plus-one over Solo as the starting goalkeeper at a World Cup, giving her three total.
Alicia Barker – Philippines
Alicia Barker is a former Illinois Fighting Illini soccer standout that was named to the Philippines’ World Cup squad. She will be a part of a Filipinas squad that will be competing in the World Cup for the first time in the team’s 42-year history.
“I am so proud of and excited for Alicia,” said Fighting Illini women’s soccer head coach Janet Rayfield. “She deserves the opportunity to experience a World Cup. The work she put in during college on the field and off and her growth as a leader is all paying off at a time she didn’t expect.”
At Illinois, Barker appeared and started in 75 games, earning All-Big Ten Second Team Defender, United Soccer Coaches Association Scholar All-North/Central Region Second Team and USCA All-North Region Third Team in a breakout 2018 campaign.
Only one of Naeher’s Red Stars teammates will be making the trip to Australia and New Zealand, as Cheyna Matthews prepares to suit up for Jamaica. It is important to note that Matthews has not played a second for the Red Stars yet. She signed with the squad in March.
But don’t let that fool you. Matthews has the experience. She represented the US at the under–23 level in 2015. However, she is also eligible to play for Jamaica through her mother. In January 2019, she was invited to join the team for Jamaica’s first Women’s World Cup appearance.
When is Team USA playing?
The US Women’s National Team (USWNT) is in Group E along with Vietnam, Netherlands and Portugal.
The US team’s debut match is versus Vietnam on Friday, July 21, at 8 p.m. CT in the Eden Park in Auckland, NZ. The game can be seen on Fox and in Spanish on Telemundo and Peacock.
The US is also scheduled to play:
- vs. Netherlands on Wednesday, July 26 at Sky Stadium in Wellington, NZ at 8 p.m. CT
- vs. Portugal on Tuesday, Aug. 1 at Al Eden Park at 2 a.m. CT
US history in the Women’s World Cup
The US national soccer team is, far and away, the most successful women’s team in history. Team USA has won the Women’s World Cup four times (1991, 1999, 2015 and 2019), finished second once and third three times the eight previous times the tournament has been held. Only Germany has won the Women’s World Cup more than once (2003, 2007).
The United States is the only team to have played the maximum number of matches possible in every FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament.
Chicago bars prep for World Cup Watch Parties
Chicago has deep roots in international soccer. And that culture will be on full display once the Women’s World Cup gets underway. Several spots around the city are getting ready to be packed with fans watching the No. 1 sport in the world. Some of them will also offer drink specials during the tournament.
One City Tap, located in the McKinley Park neighborhood, quickly earned a nod as one of Chicago’s go-to soccer bars when it began hosting Chicago Fire watch parties. As the World Cup begins, they will highlight the USA and Mexico teams.
Simone’s, located at 960 West 18th Street, will prioritize games from Central American and South American teams. However, the bar will also be showing all US games. Fans of Team Mexico have filled up this spot over the years, and they check out matches of Mexico’s club teams here throughout the season.
Cleos Bar and Grill on West Chicago Avenue has earned a reputation as one of Chicago’s premier soccer hubs. The bar isn’t a specific home for any single national team. However, many customers are supporters of the US, Germany, England and Mexico.
Ranalli’s Lincoln Park and West Loop will offer guests a variety of specials. They include $6 select stadium cups and $22 select pitchers. Meanwhile, Kirkwood, located on North Sheffield Avenue, will have food, drinks and a beer garden to accommodate groups. They’ll have $6 Bud Light or Miller Lite stadium cups to go along with $8 Vegas Bombs & Green Tea Shots.