Seeking to become the first ever country, men’s or women’s, to win three consecutive World Cups, the U.S. Women’s National Team has been an abject disappointment in Australia and New Zealand through the group stage.
The USWNT started with an uninspiring 3-0 victory against a completely overmatched Vietnam, followed that up by having to fight for a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands, and scraped through to the group stage after a sleepy 0-0 draw against Portugal. The pre-tournament favorites are incredibly lucky to still even be in the World Cup after Portugal had a last-minute shot bounce off the post. It was so discouraging that USWNT legend Carli Lloyd blasted the team for seeming to celebrate their own poor performance.
The USWNT finished the group stage on five points with a 1-2-0 record. With the Netherlands on seven points (2-1-0) it means that the U.S. goes through to the knockout round as the Group E runner-up. While it may not have a huge effect on their overall prospects to win the tournament, it has a massive impact on Fox Sports and fans at home hoping to follow the USWNT live on television stateside.
Clearly, when the schedules were made for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand halfway around the world, they were done so with the idea that the USWNT would win their group. Their second place finish now means that the Netherlands will play Round of 16 and Quarterfinal games in primetime while the USWNT will play in the middle of the night.
Round of 16 Schedule
Netherlands vs Group G runner-up, 10 p.m. ET August 5th.
USA vs Group G winner, 5 a.m. ET August 6th.
Potential Netherlands game, 9 p.m. ET August 10th
Potential USA game, 3:30 a.m. ET August 11th
It can’t be overstated what a massive blow this is to USWNT fans and Fox Sports looking ahead to the knockout round. A Group E first place finish would have meant two massive games in primetime that would easily be accessible to the entire country. Now, the USWNT is looking at its first two knockout round games airing in the middle of the night alongside whatever crazy infomercial is on at that time of night. Rest in peace Ron Popeil and Billy Mays.
It’s a huge ask for fans to adjust their entire schedule around these games, especially for those who actually had the courage to watch the Portugal contest and are now questioning their life’s existence. While it is unfortunate for fans, it’s also a nightmare scenario for Fox Sports, who will see a fraction of the ratings they were hoping to draw for those primetime USA games.
Looking ahead, the semifinals and final are also going to be early morning start times for the American audience. But it’s premature to even think about the USWNT making it that far in the tournament given what we’ve seen during the group stage.