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First ever women's match for Burlington-based soccer club has record attendance

Fans sit on the lawn behind UVM's Virtue Field
Samantha Watson
Vermont Public
Fans who couldn't get a ticket to the sold out Vermont Green Football Club women's match on June 22 line the lawn onlooking one of the goals.

On a recent gray Saturday, 3,000 fans descended into the stands of the University of Vermont’s Virtue Field. Those who didn’t have a ticket to the sold out soccer match hosted by the Vermont Green Football Club spilled out along the lawn on picnic blankets and camp chairs.

Fans — unperturbed by the chance of rain — chanted and clapped, many sporting green jerseys. Girls held handmade cardboard signs in the stands. One read, “Women belong in sports.”

All of this, the cheering and the stomping, the edge-of-the-seat-ness, the nail-biting anticipation — it was all historic. While the Vermont Green Football Club — the men’s semi-professional league — is now into its third season, Saturday’s game was the league's first ever women’s match.

Attendance at the match surpassed any of this season’s men’s games. For some fans, the match wasn’t about the score — there’s no season for the team to continue on to if they won — it was about getting to see women play soccer at a high level on Vermont turf.

In Vermont, women’s soccer leagues have come and gone. In 2008, Vermont Lady Voltage represented the state, and more recently, Manchester-based Vermont Fusion. But this year, no women’s teams will be represented in the Women’s Premier Soccer League.

That is, except for this match. The exhibition match was a trial run, exploring what a permanent women’s bracket would look like.

Yet even in its debut, the team had no shortage of fans.

Fans fill a stadium onto Green Mountain Football Club's women's team
Samantha Watson
Vermont Public
Fans of all ages settle in as the FC Women's players are introduced by the announcer.

The girls U13/14 Queen City soccer team was in the stands. When asked what brought them out to the game, one player responded, “to see Sam Mewis.”

Sam Mewis is a former member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. In 2019, she took home international gold in the team’s World Cup victory. Today, she’s across the field coaching the Vermont Green women’s team.

Recently, women's sports have been gaining popularity, and subsequently, more media coverage than ever before. This past winter, college basketball star Caitlin Clark drew the attention of fans across the country. Trends show she’s even influencing 2024 baby names, along with this year’s solar eclipse ("Sunny", "Aurora," "Stella").

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team’s 2019 win was a huge catalyst for women’s sports recognition. It pulled women’s soccer into the spotlight and gave players, like coach Sam Mewis, a sheen of stardom previously exclusive to male athletes.

Twenty-seven-year-old Brie McLernon was excited to see local attention to women’s sports growing.

“It’s even reassuring to see, like, NWSL jerseys in the crowd,” McLernon said. “It’s been a league that’s been growing the last couple of years. It’s nice to see that people are appreciating the sport and that we get a piece of that in Vermont.”

The 90-minute match was a back-and-forth dance that kept fans hungry for a goal.

In a penalty kick tie breaker, the spectators on the lawn — the ones who couldn’t get tickets but showed up anyway— pressed up cheering against the fence, feet away from the goalkeeper's back.

People press up against the fence on-looking the penalty kick shoot out goal
Samantha Watson
Vermont Public
Fans seated on the lawn press up against a fence to watch the penalty kick shootout.

Vermont Green FC’s Roshann Purcell was up. This was the final moment, the defining kick that could seal this historic woman’s match in a victory.

The kicker lined up, took a breath. The crowd cheered themselves hoarse.

The whistle blew, and in one swift motion, ball met net. The crowd erupted.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Corrected: June 27, 2024 at 9:56 PM EDT
Vermont Green Football Club is in its third season. The age of the club was incorrect in an earlier version of this article.
Samantha Watson is Vermont Public's news intern.
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