The SheBelieves Cup wrote another chapter in what the city can expect when the Copa America teams and supporters arrive in two months, and the World Cup in 2026.

Fans from around the country descended upon Centennial Park and Mercedes-Benz Stadium to profess their love for the sport, embrace their national team and bond with their families. It was a cosmopolitan mix brought together to see the U.S. play Japan and Canada play Brazil in a tournament being hosted by the city of Atlanta for the first time. Added together, they set an attendance record of 50,644 for a U.S. women’s friendly as the city continues to establish itself as the soccer capital of the country.

There was a family from Seattle, who have never before been to Atlanta, here to support the U.S. women. There was a couple who live in Birmingham and who have travelled the world supporting the Japan men’s and women’s teams, waving their nation’s flag on the concourse. There was a fan of a specific Japanese player in the city for the first time and at his first live match from Los Angeles. There was a pair of moms and daughters from Columbus who were on their first sports trips together here because their daughters dream of one day playing for the U.S. There were two fans of Brazil, one who lives in Gainesville and the other from south Georgia, here to support their team and favorite player, Marta.

“In terms of women’s sports, I think we’re kind of defying the idea that people aren’t interested,” Angela Meekhof, who was here from Seattle and enjoying the pre-match festivities in Centennial Park with her daughter Piper and husband. “I think when given the opportunity, and the platform, people are very interested in sports. It’s really cool for her to see people who want to see women.”

Amy Weiss and Lauren Achtziger came from Columbus and were among the first to wait in line at Gate 1 to get into the stadium. Their daughters, Lacey and Emma, were hoping to meet their favorite players Alex Morgan and Sophia Smith before the match. They were on their first sports trips as mothers and daughters, who play for Concorde Fire.

“This will be a memory we can look back on if we get to play for the U.S. women,” Emma said.

Weiss said she appreciates players like Alex Morgan as a role model for her daughter. Morgan is a mother and one of the best players in U.S. history.

“You see her with her daughter, so they can see you be a mom, a woman and have everything,” she said. “You can achieve your dreams and have everything.”

Fans hold a Japanese national flag before the SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match between the U.S. and Japan at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Saturday, April 6, 2024, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin /


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Not all of the fans were there just for the U.S.

Clara Tzitas, a native of Brazil who is studying at Brenau in Gainesville, was here with Liz Gonzalez to support the Canarinhas, one of the nicknames for the women’s Brazil team. Danny Fujisawa traveled from L.A. to see the Japanese women and his favorite player Fuka Nagano play for the third time but the first time in the U.S.

Satoshi Honda and Ikue Yamada, who have came from Birmingham at least eight times to watch Atlanta United, came on another one of their caravans to watch the Japanese men or women. Honda and Fujisawa are independently planning on going to the Summer Games in Paris to support Japan.

The SheBelieves Cup brought them together and the city a glimpse of what’s to come. Tzitas, Gonzalez, Weiss and Achtziger said they are already discussing coming to the Copa America and World Cup matches.

If some want more soccer before the 2026 World Cup, counting Saturday’s two SheBelieves Cup matches, there will be at least 21 soccer matches played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium by the end of the MLS season with an estimated 1 million tickets distributed. Those include the two in Copa America, one featuring Argentina and the other the U.S., the friendly between Chelsea and Club America this summer, two Leagues Cup matches, and Atlanta United’s 14 remaining MLS matches.

U.S. fans react after a goal. (Hyosub Shin /


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Saturday was mostly about the U.S.

It wasn’t quite a housewarming for the team, whose new home will see shovels go into the ground on Monday as part of the first sweaty steps in the construction of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s new national training center and headquarters in Fayette County.

The opening game between the U.S. and Japan was tied 1-1 at the half. Japan ruined the celebratory mood when Kiko Seike scored in the 33rd second to give the guests a 1-0 lead. Mallory Swanson, married to former Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, had a shot cleared off the line in the 15th minute. Jaedyn Shaw tied it in the 21st minute with a shot from 22 yards. Lindsey Horan gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead with a penalty kick in the 77th minute.

The U.S. will play Canada in the finals on Tuesday in Columbus. Canada defeated Brazil in a shootout after finishing 1-1. Brazil and Japan will be in the consolation match.

U.S. manager Twila Kilgore and players from both teams praised the crowd and stadium after the match, with Crystal Dunn summing it up in a very ATL way by saying “Atlanta has kind of a vibe.”

One person who perhaps appreciated it more than any other was Marietta’s Emily Sonnett, who made her 89th appearance for the U.S. when she came on as a sub in the second half.

Sonnett, who estimated she had 30 friends and family watching at the stadium, received the third-loudest cheers, only surpassed by the reactions to the goals. It was just her second time playing as a professional in Atlanta.

“I think the real answer’s electric,” she said of the environment. “It was awesome. I think having one in my hometown and breaking the record for us is great. I mean, it’s great for the sports community here and the support behind the team.”

There will be more to come.

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