LOS ANGLES — Angel City defender Ali Riley was expecting few people in the United States to be watching her national team New Zealand and her face Norway on July 20. The kick-off time was 12 a.m. in Los Angeles when many of her hometown supporters would typically be asleep.
But overcoming yawns, what ensued was nothing like what Riley expected. Hundreds of fans packed two watch parties hosted by Angel City in Los Angeles, cheering her until around 2 a.m. The watch parties happened at 33 Taps locations in Culver City and Silver Lake and included giveaways and an appearance from Angel City co-founder Julie Uhrman, among others.
The supporters vibrantly rooted for their captain, Riley, as New Zealand secured a 1-0 victory, their first World Cup win in history.
“Here I was thinking nobody would watch a Football Ferns game that kicked off at midnight,” said Riley in a Twitter post. Then I see @weareangelcity merch in the stands, videos from the watch parties, and hundreds of messages from LA. I can’t describe how much your support means. I love you all!”
Angel City is hosting watch parties like that for 13 of the 2023 World Cup group-stage games at various locations across Los Angeles. And so far, they have all been packed with enthusiastic fans.
On July 21, they hosted three watch parties for the United States’ opening game against Vietnam. There, again, hundreds of fans flocked to root for the Angel City players playing in the World Cup; for the United States. This time they supported Angel City midfielder Julie Ertz and forward Alyssa Thompson to a 3-0 victory.
Ertz started the game at center back, while Thompson entered off the bench, making her the second-youngest player to appear for the United States in a World Cup.
The lines to enter Homebound Brew Haus at Union Station were out the door as fans anxiously tried to see Ertz and Thompson. There, Angel City forward Sydney Leroux and Ally Kendricks hosted a watch-along for Bleacher Report at the Union Station watch party with fans in the backdrop. Among others, Los Angeles Chargers safety Eric Kendricks attended the watch party, too.
Angel City is hosting watch parties for 13 of the 2023 World Cup group-stage games in L.A. (Credit: NWSL)
The considerable support at Angel City’s watch parties is signaling the growth of women’s soccer at the club level. At the last World Cup, four years ago, Angel City did not exist, and there were nine NWSL teams. Now, their supporters are packing watch parties to root for their favorite team’s players at the national level, and the NWSL has 12 teams (and is adding two more in 2024).
“Every four years, everyone is a women’s soccer fan. The point is these incredible athletes are playing year-round. And there is the opportunity to support them year-round,” said Angel City’s head of community, Catherine Dávila.
Angel City is ensuring all their fans are represented at their watch parties, not only the American ones, by hosting them for other games, too.
“In LA, there is a fan for one of every one of the 32 teams in this tournament, and we are about growing the women’s game and not just growing the U.S. game,” Dávila said. “So we have been really intentional about ensuring we are having watch parties to support teams across the globe. And that means when our captain Ali Riley is playing at midnight on a Wednesday, we have two locations that are packed fully to capacity and just cheering her on.”
This growth in women’s soccer at the club level will only continue, according to Dávila. Angel City regularly sells out its home stadium, BMO Stadium, and has averaged 19,401 fans per game this season. And after the World Cup, they expect their support to continue being strong as club soccer boosts its popularity.
“I’ve heard it said a number of times, ‘This is a moment for women’s soccer.’ This is not a moment. This is an inflection, and it is on a trajectory that is only up,” Dávila said.