For the die-hard,paint-covered,outdoorsy fan,Freedom Plaza was a must. For the fan who appreciates air-conditioning and cold beer,the atrium of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum was a no-brainer.
Regardless,thousands of fans gathered at both destinations to watch Tim Howard and Team USA fall to Belgium in the Round of 16.
After the success of last week’s watch party in Dupont Circle,where about 10,000 fans gathered to watch the USA-Germany match,the two parties had a similar turnout.
Despite the temperature pushing 95 degrees,Freedom Plaza was packed with cheering fans both young and old.
In a crowd full of USA-inspired outfits,Danny Becker,22,and Joe Shrewsbury,22,were arguably the most dedicated fans.
The two Towson University students from Maryland sported large American flags and had painted their faces,chests and backs in an American flag motif.
As the U.S. team struggled to score during the match,the duo led the crowd in “I believe that we will win” chants.
“I love baseball,I love football,I love basketball! But I love soccer the most,at this point!” Gray shouted.
The National Portrait Gallery showed the match in the atrium,but the mood was no different.
The gallery had never shown a sporting event before,so event organizers were expecting only a few hundred people,Nik Apostoli,associate director for external affairs at the gallery,said.
“We just started planning this on Friday,and since we’ve never done this before,we weren’t expecting to reach our capacity,” he said,adding that the atrium with a glass roof holds 1,200 people. “We wanted to do something to make museums more relevant and host something that everyone’s talking about,so it’s like an exhibition.”
The Smithsonian partnered with the Belgian Embassy,and several groups donated the screen and sound system.
“If anyone dropped out,we couldn’t have done this,” Apostoli said. “We’re all surprised it worked out.”
Before the match,Thomas Lambert,deputy chief of mission at the Belgian Embassy spoke to the American-dominated crowd,noting that the last time Team USA played Belgium in the World Cup was in 1930,which ended differently.
The U.S. team defeated Belgium on July 13,1930,in the first World Cup,84 years ago,held in Montevideo,Uruguay. The match was watched by a crowd of a few thousand fans – a fraction of Tuesday’s numbers that,according to an ESPN press release,attracted an average of 16.4 million viewers on ESPN. The match was the second most-viewed soccer match in the U.S. ever,according to the release.
Reach reporter Xander Zellner [email protected] or 202-326-9867. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.