The United States finishing second in Group E behind the Netherlands means plenty more late nights for USWNT fans watching the Women’s World Cup back in America

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Football Digest: USA face difficult path to World Cup glory

The United States’ failure to finish top of Group E at the Women’s World Cup means their upcoming knockout round matches will happen during the middle of the night in America.

After drawing 0-0 with Portugal in their final group stage game, the USWNT finished second behind the Netherlands; and only narrowly avoided exiting the competition completely after their opponents hit the woodwork in added time. Therefore, instead of playing South Africa in Sydney, they will face arch-rivals Sweden one day earlier in Melbourne.

As well as being up against, on paper, a better opponent, they will also be playing at less favourable times for the fans watching on back home. Almost eight million viewers watched their 1-1 draw with Holland, which kicked off at 9pm on the country’s east coast.

However, those same supporters now face staying up late into the night or waking up early in the morning to continue following the team’s progress. Their round of 16 match kicks off at 5am ET.

FIFA had tried to avoid such a scenario by scheduling potential USA fixtures for more fan-friendly times. The world governing body suggested as much to Yahoo Sports. A statement said they “recognised some opportunities to schedule two USWNT group matches at times that it believed would be attractive to many stakeholders.”

That alludes to their second game against the Dutch and the opening match versus Vietnam, which both began at 9pm ET. Their third and final game kicked off at 3am ET.

Playing Portugal at that time should have proved the exception rather than the rule had they not faltered. Topping the group would have seen them face South Africa at 10pm ET, which would not have been too dissimilar a time to NBA games between two Western Conference teams.

Alex Morgan and her USA teammates have so far failed to meet expectations Alex Morgan and her USA teammates have so far failed to meet expectations (


Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

A potential quarter-final fixture was down for a midnight start time on the East Coast and an increasingly palatable time to further West you went. But now, instead of Wellington, their last eight game would be in Auckland and getting underway at 7am ET.

The briefest of glances at the knockout round schedule shows that these are the only games during either stage starting in the middle of the afternoon local time. Every other fixture from the round of 16 onwards kicks off from 5pm onwards.

However, two draws and a lone win over Vietnam put pay to those plans from FIFA. It also affects Dutch fans for their team finishing top.

Not only did their decisive draw with the US start at 4am in their homeland, Holland’s clash with South Africa is in the middle of the day at 11am. Similarly, should they advance, their quarter-final fixture against either Switzerland or Japan is at 1pm CET.

From the semi-finals onwards, no such creative scheduling continues. Each tie starts at 8pm local time, aside from the 6pm local time third-place playoff.