Adrianna Franch remembers watching the United States Women’s National Team play in the World Cup in 1999 when she was nine years old.
The chance to see girls competing on the highest level, and then going on to win the program’s second championship, left such an impression on her at the time.
“I just wanted to be in their shoes,” Franch said
These days, that is exactly where she is.
Franch made two saves to post a clean sheet as the U.S. defeated Portugal, 4-0, on Thursday in a friendly match at Lincoln Financial Field in front of 49,504 fans decked out in red, white and blue attire.
Tobin Heath, Morgan Brian, hometown hero Carli Lloyd and Allie Long each scored in the game, which was a stop on the team’s Victory Tour to celebrate the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup title, its fourth overall, this summer.
It was the largest crowd in team history for a friendly played on home soil. The only other games in the U.S. that have drawn more fans were six World Cup contests and two games in the Olympics.
What stood out to Franch was all of the young girls she saw in the stands. They reminded her of herself 20 years ago.
“It’s incredible how many young women were here to see us play,” Franch said. “To be here, and kind of pay it forward, is pretty incredible.
“It’s in addition to what we do. We love what we do. I love my job. I get to play soccer for a living. But to play and also inspire (other young girls) takes it to another level.”
Lloyd, who hails from Delran, N.J., remembers facing Ireland in a friendly at the Linc 11 years ago. The contest drew a few thousand fans.
“When I first joined the team in 2005, we were lucky to push 5,000 fans across for a game,” said Lloyd, who served as captain and carried the World Cup trophy on to the field during team introductions. “It just goes to show you how far we have come and how far this team has come. It’s really great to see. We are America’s Dream Team and everyone loves us, and we are an inspiration.”
The five-game Victory Tour features all 23 players who were on the team’s roster this summer. However, stars Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle did not play due to injuries and other reasons.
In the first game on the tour, they drew 37,000 fans in a 3-0 win over Ireland on Aug. 3 at the Rose Bowl, and next travel to Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minn., on Sept. 3 for a rematch against Portugal.
“People like to support a team that wins,” Lloyd said. “It’s important for us to find a way to win and make this sport popular. To continue this Victory Tour around the nation is just great for the fans.”
And, of course, the players.
“Just to see the growth has been amazing,” coach Jill Ellis said. “In just my tenure, to see the fans and the growth in terms of numbers and the popularity of the sport and the team is great to be a part of. What it says is it speaks volumes. … and is a good sign of where our game is headed.”