Going into tonight's USA vs. China match, there will be five other teams still left in the seventh FIFA Women's World Cup: England, Japan, Australia, Canada, and whoever wins this afternoon's Germany v. France game.
The match comes as US women's soccer appears to enjoy some growth in popularity and a crucial opportunity for some competitors trying to muscle in on ESPN's territory. As reported by sports media blog Awful Announcing, nascent sports channel Fox Sports 1 has averaged about 4.4. million viewers per US soccer match this Cup, and hopes to see about 9 million, should the US advance tonight. (Interestingly enough, the No. 1 US television market for the Cup's Nielsen ratings appears to be St. Louis. Number two is my metropolitan area of Washington.)
By comparison, the US Men's Team peaked at about 18 million viewers on ESPN during 2014's Brazil World Cup.
Even within a long history of gender bias in professional sports and sports marketing, the Women's side of the sport has had to withstand some blatant sexism within FIFA itself. For the Los Angeles Times, economist and sports academic Andrew Zimbalist contrasts the total amount of money awarded to men's World Cup team ($576 million) to that awarded to women's teams this year ($15 million). This, despite the fact that the 1999 Women's match between US and China "reaped the highest U.S. TV ratings of any soccer match ever."
Current FIFA President Sepp Blatter, on his way out after the multi-national corruption probe that dominated sports headlines a few weeks ago, has reportedly been absent from this year's games. But that may have something to do with FIFA's current legal woes.
But back to tonight's match: Chinese news site ECNS explored the face-off from the perspective of the Chinese team, noting that the team has acted as an underdog in the competition:
Center back Tan Ruyin said, "The U.S. team wants to win the title, and same to us. But we're a younger team. We don't have much pressure to defend anything. We didn't make the World Cup four years ago and now we're in the top 8. We're going to enter the game with nothing to lose."
We here at St. Jane's Communications are rooting for the US to win. Well, I am. I assume Jade is, but, I haven't confirmed. (Update: She is, but not very enthusiastically). I would have been rooting for my familial home of Colombia, had the US not knocked them out last round. Alas, work kept me from being able to watch the match, so my birth country will carry the rest of my hopes.
If you find yourself at home this evening, see if you can check out the game. You can follow @StJaneCo on Twitter for links to live online feeds and information on which of our staff will be live-tweeting. Here's a bit of social media to hype you: