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The following is a photo essay from Ayana Cochran. 

One month after the World Cup Welcome Back match on July 21, Chicago is still reeling from the 17,388 who came to see the Red Stars best the North Carolina Courage 2-1. In a match that would be the biggest homestand the club had ever played in front of at SeatGeek Stadium, the electrifying crowd would become a moment that would be etched into women’s soccer history. 

Two days before the highly anticipated Welcome Back match, the media arrived for a press conference starring Morgan Brian, Tierna Davidson, Julie Ertz, and Alyssa Naeher World Cup champions. 

Immediately after the conference, they had training. Admirable of them to give 100% effort despite the weather being near the 100s. Yes, Julie Ertz was still in her signature sweatpants.

“It was honestly one of the best experiences I’ve had at a Chicago Red Stars game. My mind was blown.” – Sabrina Chiang, Red Stars volunteer

The Red Star and U.S. Women’s National Team  #1 goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher logged two brilliant first-half saves in front of a record-breaking crowd.

“We went to Utah last year for their opener, we played in this. We obviously play in this every time we go to Portland, so to actually have them cheering for you instead of against you was huge.” – Rory Dames, Head coach

In a post-game ceremony, all World Cup participants received flowers and a standing ovation from the filled stadium for earning the chance to represent their respective countries at the highest level. No matter the badge or the result, world-class is world-class.

“I think, you know, it’s the biggest crowd in history. For us, it’s capitalizing on that by putting a good product on the field but also for us staying after giving autographs and making it worth people’s while and the fans to see that there’s also something different in we care about our fans and we appreciate them.” – Morgan Brian

“This is what we’re trying to do, grow women’s sports, and especially here in Chicago. I’ve been here since the beginning and it’s been really awesome. ” – Julie Ertz, Captain

“It was amazing to have all those fans out there and I hope they keep coming back. We were talking about before the game how we need to make sure to defend our home and put on a show if we want people to keep coming back and stay interested, so it was really great to have such a buzzing atmosphere.” – Tierna Davidson

Women’s club soccer in the US is growing across the nation and with the strongest league in the world here in the United States it’s time the nation starts noticing. It was 17,388 on this perfect Sunday night in July that showed they could show up and support. Now, it’s up to everyone to continue to show that they #wontstopwatching.  

From my perspective, these players love Chicago and we’ve seen how much the city is capable of loving them back. It’s essential to show up for every home game with unwavering support and passion, to champion for these players and their dreams. I will continue to use my voice for spreading enthusiasm and positive energy for this league. For my hometown and this team, I will continue to be present for this organization that has given many others like me an opportunity to feel seen and represented.