Megan Rapinoe 'excited' to play soccer, eat breakfast tacos in Austin
Megan Rapinoe is ready to visit Austin when the U.S. women’s national team plays the first-ever match at Q2 Stadium with the Americans facing off with Nigeria on June 16. It’ll be the first time for a national team to play a soccer match in Austin.
“Frankly, we do enough in Houston and Dallas,” Rapinoe joked. “The breakfast tacos alone are enough reason to be excited.”
Soccer is booming in Austin, and in America. Austin FC holds six points through three matches, which is good enough for fourth place in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference. North America will play host to the 2026 men’s World Cup. An American is guaranteed to win a UEFA Champions League medal with Christian Pulisic scoring goals for Chelsea and Zach Steffen as a reserve goalie for Manchester City.
The addition of Austin FC, and Q2 Stadium, makes Austin a viable destination for soccer’s elite national team. Playing in new markets remains important for a sport still on the rise here in America.
“From a player's perspective, it is always exciting for us to take our game into a new market and get in front of new eyes,” Rapinoe said. “With how much soccer is growing in this country, it is cool to break in a stadium for U.S. Soccer and continue to grow the game. The sport is exploding in this country.”
Rapinoe and her teammates will be preparing for the Olympics when the U.S. women’s national team arrives in Austin as part of a three-match summer series. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski must cut the roster to 18 players following the match in Austin before the Olympics start in Japan over the summer.
National teams never get enough time to prepare. It’s the nature of the beast with club squads paying wages. But this last cycle proved even tougher. The pandemic postponed the Olympics and will keep national teams from playing this month, which is customary leading into an international tournament. The match in Austin is invaluable for the USWNT, according to Rapinoe.
“These games are huge. Not only to get together to grow chemistry, but to get into the details down a little more,” she said. “These (three games) gives us a chance to simulate a group stage of a tournament with three games in a row.”
The USWNT starts the exhibition matches in Houston with matchups against Portugal on June 10 and Jamaica on June 13. The Olympics start in July with the United States in Group G alongside Sweden, New Zealand and Australia.
The Olympics were supposed to take place in 2020. The pandemic forced a postponement, adding a year before Rapinoe and her teammates could attempt a return to the medal stand after being eliminated in the quarterfinals in 2016.
It was one of her few career disappointments. She was on World Cup winning teams in 2015 and 2019. She won an Olympic gold medal in 2012. Rapinoe was even named FIFA women’s player of the year in 2019.
“It was disappointing to have the Olympics postponed due to the pandemic, but we’re excited for it that it is going to happen,” she said. “There are so many unknowns, and that was the theme of the last year. We just have to roll with it.”
The match against Nigeria is the last chance for Andonovski to watch his squad before the roster cuts. It’ll be the first time Nigeria and the United States have played outside of a world championship and it is just the third-ever friendly against an African country. The previous two were against South Africa.
“I’m super excited to play Nigeria because we don’t get to play teams from the African continent very often, so it is a big signal of how much the game continues to grow from a global perspective,” Rapinoe said. “It’ll be great to see a different type of team than we normally play. We want to play all different kinds of teams.”
A team she’d like to see is a new one in Austin that plays in the National Women’s Soccer League. Rapinoe, never one to shy away from an honest assessment, said that the new training facility for the Austin FC could easily house 23 more players, and that a brand-new stadium can hold more than one team.
“Austin would be an incredible city to have an NWSL team,” she said. “If the Austin ownership group is committed to equality and growing the game on both sides, I would very much encourage them to look into an NWSL franchise.”