Covering the Women’s World Cup Takes Stamina and Coffee
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Covering the Women’s World Cup Takes Stamina and Coffee

Jul 27, 2023


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Juliet Macur, a Sports reporter, is chasing the story of the U.S. national women’s soccer team at this year’s tournament.

By Emmett Lindner

Reporters follow a story wherever it leads — and the story behind the FIFA Women’s World Cup has led Juliet Macur across countries and time zones. Last week at the tournament, which this year is hosted by Australia and New Zealand, the U.S. national women’s soccer team, which usually dominates, surprised fans when it tied the Netherlands, 1-1, at Sky Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand. After the game, Ms. Macur, who covers sports for The New York Times, traveled from one end of the North Island to the other for the team’s game Tuesday against Portugal, which ended in a 0-0 tie. Ms. Macur is now headed to Melbourne, Australia, for the team's round of 16 game on Sunday.

The competition in women’s soccer has led to increased viewership around the world. Ms. Macur, who has covered 12 Olympic Games and two previous World Cups (one men’s and one women’s), has watched the sport change within FIFA and among fans.

So far this tournament, she has written articles about the U.S. team’s wide range of player experience, its players who are mothers and the flashes of brilliance its athletes displayed on the field. In a phone interview, which Ms. Macur took from the airport, she spoke about the atmosphere of the stadiums and the broadening fan base of women’s soccer, as well as how she stays focused during the whirlwind tournament. Read the edited exchange below.

What has the atmosphere been like so far at the World Cup?

I’ve been in Auckland, New Zealand, for two U.S. games and in Wellington for another U.S. game, and the stadiums have been pretty packed. I was pleasantly surprised. The number of fans from other countries who have come to support their teams is many more than I expected. I didn’t expect all these people from around the world to travel all the way here. We are very far from Europe and the United States.

What do you think is unifying everything right now around the tournament?

Women’s soccer has definitely grown; the leagues are more popular in countries besides the U.S. Teams are not winning by 13 like the U.S. did against Thailand during the last World Cup. The U.S. only beat Vietnam by three this year, and there have been a lot of tie scores and close games. I think people are realizing, Wow, there’s more parity than ever among all the teams around the world. It’s been fun to watch for everybody, and some of the close games and upsets have surprised even the people who cover the sport.

Someone from FIFA last week said that they haven’t had fewer than 20,000 people at any of the games. I think what will be the mark of this Women’s World Cup is that most every game is competitive and that people are filling the seats.

How do you focus your coverage when you’re there?

I have some features that I’m still working on. In the group stage, with the number of games that you have to monitor, you’re constantly watching to see where the stories will take you. But I’ve been focusing on just one team, the U.S. team, which is something that I don’t usually do; I usually write broader stories.

I feel like I’ve been here for two months. The days get really long and on most nongame days the U.S. team makes a player or two available to the media. Then you’re traveling from city to city. So unlike the Olympics, when there’s something happening every day that I have to cover, with this tournament I’m trying to find the stories of the in-between days.

Is that reporting rhythm hard to get used to?

I compare it to the Olympics because I’m away for many weeks and I'm working every day. At the Olympics, I’m filing something pretty substantial every single day. But here the rhythm is definitely different. It’s more focused around the games; on the off days, we’re doing coverage for The Times’s live blog. You can’t have a 3,000-word story about the women’s national team in the paper every day. We’re trying to figure out how not to overwhelm the readers and still give them good stories.

The time difference is crazy, so there’s a lot of coffee involved. Different types of coffee — nighttime coffee, daytime coffee. All the coffee is amazing here. I’m just trying to get at least four hours of sleep. The games go really late, and my body wants to get up at 6 in the morning no matter what part of the Earth I’m on. But if you’re awake you can watch really good soccer — that’s a plus.

Emmett Lindner has covered international protests, worked on live briefings and asked the tough questions about frozen reindeer meat for The Times. More about Emmett Lindner


What has the atmosphere been like so far at the World Cup?What do you think is unifying everything right now around the tournament?How do you focus your coverage when you’re there?Is that reporting rhythm hard to get used to?