MAPFRE Stadium’s notoriety as a stronghold for the country’s national teams earned its lore in large part to the dos-a-cero U.S. victories over Mexico (at least until the latest World Cup qualifying cycle), but even as 79,000-seat stadiums like Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. were selling out during the 1999 Women’s World Cup, the embodiment of American Soccer inevitably starts in large part with the first soccer-specific stadium in the United States; a seemingly skeletal-like structure built in nine months and designed to house approximately 20,000 people.
So when FIFA officials were in need of changing the 2003 World Cup host site, the U.S. found themselves as one of two potential landing spots alongside Sweden, who was the only other nation to make a formal bid to host the tournament. Advantageous stadium infrastructure paved the way for the U.S., which officially earned the bid for the second straight cycle following an announcement from FIFA on May 26, 2003.
Following the 1999 World Cup– a historic moment in the relatively brief timeline of American Soccer, let alone the women’s game – MAPFRE Stadium’s inclusion as a World Cup host did not come as a surprise when the six-venue, 32-game tournament schedule was announced on June 16.
Nearly a month after individual tickets went on sale to the general public, MAPFRE Stadium and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. hosted the tournament-opening games on Sept. 20, with Germany vs. Canada & Japan vs. Argentina taking place in Central Ohio. Overall, MAPFRE Stadium hosted six matches – all in the group stage – including a U.S. match which featured a 3-0 victory over North Korea on September 28.
Against North Korea, which at the time was the fourth USWNT match to be played at MAPFRE Stadium, Cat Whitehill registered a brace, while Abby Wambach added another tally to lead the Stars and Stripes en route to an albeit disappointing third-place finish in the tournament.
Following a nearly eight-year hiatus from MAPFRE Stadium matches, the USWNT returned to Ohio in 2011, and has since played three additional matches, most recently being a 1-0 win over 2003 World Cup champion Germany on March 1, 2018 to improve the team's all-time record at MAPFRE Stadium to 8-1-1.
Though not in Central Ohio or U.S. soil for that matter, the USWNT return to fold in their opening match of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup on Tuesday, June 11 at 3 p.m. ET as the tournament favorites begin their title-defense campaign vs. Thailand from Stade Auguste-Delaune – home of Ligue 1 side Stade Reims – in Reims, France.