SALT LAKE CITY — On Monday morning, Utah Royals FC head coach Laura Harvey took to Twitter to express gratitude for the increased attention women’s soccer has gained in recent years.
Indeed, as eyes around the world turn to the eighth FIFA Women's World Cup, which will begin in France on Friday, there certainly is a groundswell of excitement that the game hasn’t seen before.
“The visibility our sport is getting is the game changer, not the sport itself,” Harvey wrote in part. “I’m loving it. The visibility and investment in women’s game has changed dramatically in recent years and this @FIFAWWC is gonna be epic! Good luck to all the players/staff. I’m thankful for this game and what it has given me. I’m so happy others are now seeing how amazing this game is!”
She finished her message with a heart emoji.
Reflection moment this morning. An advert comes on tv with a girl kicking a ball against a wall, shows her mum is supporting her. Loved it. The Nike advert is so powerful! The visibility our sport is getting is the game changer, not the sport itself. I’m loving it. 1/2— Laura Harvey (@LH1505) June 3, 2019
2/2 The visibility and investment in women’s game has changed dramatically in recent years and this @FIFAWWC is gonna be epic! Good luck to all the players/ staff. I’m thankful for this game and what it has given me. I’m so happy others are now seeing how amazing this game is! ❤️— Laura Harvey (@LH1505) June 3, 2019
Harvey certainly has plenty of reasons to be invested in this year’s 24-team tournament. Most notably, her native England is in the field, and six URFC players will represent four different countries.
Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Press and Kelley O’Hara are once again on the defending champion and widely-favored United States team; Rachel Corsie will captain Scotland as it makes its first-ever appearance and Katie Bowen and Desiree Scott will make their third trips for New Zealand and Canada, respectively (Diana Matheson also surely would have made Canada’s roster but got injured).
Additionally, Harvey and URFC players Amy Rodriguez and Vero Boquete — both of whom have played in the World Cup (Rodriguez was on the 2015 United States team that won it) — will be providing live in-studio analysis on Fox 13 of various matches throughout the tournament, the club announced Tuesday.
The tournament will start with the group stage (six groups of four teams), which will go until June 20. The knockout stage will begin June 22 with 16 teams (the top two from each group and the four best others). The final will be held on July 7 in Lyon.
“It’s just a huge honor to be a part of it," Corsie said before URFC's season began. "We don’t want to just go there and make up the numbers. We want to go and make a good account of ourselves and we know that there’s a chance, if we can progress from the group stages, that then it’s a game at a time.”
While Corsie will be making her first appearance at the World Cup, Bowen is a seasoned veteran at this point, but said time hasn't diminished how she feels about being on her country's roster for the tournament.
"When I hear it, it's kind of a bit surreal, to be honest," she said. "I have a more significant role in this one, so I'm really excited. I've never been to France, so I'm super excited."
One storyline away from the action that will surely be a big talking point throughout the tournament is the lawsuit 28 United States Women's National Team players filed in March against U.S. Soccer, alleging gender discrimination as it relates to wages and other issues.
Then earlier this week, Professional Footballers Australia launched a campaign to put pressure on FIFA to make prize money equal for men's and women's World Cups (the winning team will earn $4 million from FIFA, while France, the 2018 men's World Cup winner, received $38 million).
Sauerbrunn, the captain of the USWNT, said before URFC's season began in regard to the lawsuit that she and her teammates realize the litigation process could drag on for a long time, and as such, they're working to not have it be a distraction as they try to defend their title.
“As we go through, we’re just focusing on the soccer and we don’t want it to in any way hinder us, our focus, our energy levels,” she said.
Each game of the group stage will air on one of the Fox Sports channels. Here’s a breakdown of when and how to watch URFC players during the opening stage.
Sunday, June 9:
- Scotland vs. England, 10 a.m. MT, Fox
In the first game featuring a URFC player, Corsie and Scotland will face Harvey and assistant coach Scott Parkinson’s England in what is a fierce rivalry.
Monday, June 10:
- Canada vs. Cameroon, 1 p.m MT, FS1
Scott and the rest of the Canadian side will open play after getting to the quarterfinals in 2015 as hosts.
Tuesday, June 11:
- New Zealand vs. Netherlands, 7 a.m. MT, FS1
- United States vs. Thailand, 1 p.m. MT, Fox
In an early morning game for fans in Utah, Bowen and New Zealand will open play, then in the afternoon, Sauerbrunn, Press and O’Hara will begin their title defense.
Friday, June 14:
- Scotland vs. Japan, 7 a.m. MT, FS1
After two days with no action for URFC players, Corsie and Scotland will play their second game of the tournament in an early-morning game for Utah viewers.
Saturday, June 15:
- Canada vs. New Zealand, 1 p.m. MT, FS2
In the only game during the group stage that will feature URFC players on opposing sides, it’ll be Scott vs. Bowen. Canada and New Zealand were also in the same group in 2015 and played to a 0-0 draw in the opening round.
As a related aside, URFC will also return to action that night after the National Women’s Soccer League takes this weekend off for the beginning of World Cup play. URFC will face Sky Blue FC at Rio Tinto Stadium, with first kick scheduled for 8 p.m. MT.
Sunday, June 16:
- United States vs. Chile, 10 a.m. MT, Fox
Some Sunday morning soccer in Utah will see the United States play their second game of the group stage.
Wednesday, June 19:
- Scotland vs. Argentina, 1 p.m. MT, FS2
On the penultimate day of the group stage, Corsie and Scotland will play their final group match.
Thursday, June 20:
- New Zealand vs. Cameroon, 10 a.m. MT, FS1
- Canada vs. Netherlands, 10 a.m. MT, Fox
- United States vs. Sweden, 1 p.m. MT, Fox
The final day of group play will be a huge one for URFC players. Some deft channel-changing might be necessary as Bowen’s New Zealand and Scott’s Canada are set to play at the same time.
The United States is scheduled to play soon after the conclusion of the other two games.
While only three of the six groups in the tournament have URFC representation, here is the entire tournament field by group:
France, South Korea, Norway and Nigeria
Germany, China, Spain and South Africa
Australia, Italy, Brazil and Jamaica
England, Scotland, Argentina and Japan
Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand and Netherlands
United States, Thailand, Chile and Sweden