The FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off July 20 in Auckland, New Zealand, and once again, the Americans are favored to win it all. The U.S. Women’s National Team enter the fray as the reigning champions, having claimed victory at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, their fourth since the tournament began in 1991. And this year, they’ll be bringing plenty of Peach State pride Down Under: the 23-player roster includes two Georgia natives, defenders Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett.
We rounded up some information about our two favorite players (sorry Rapinoe!) to impress your friends, as well as where to catch the games live around Atlanta.
Kelley O’Hara, Fayetteville’s fastest feet
Position: Right Back
Proof of Georgia roots: Love for Chick-fil-A
A tiny fraction of soccer players makes it to a FIFA World Cup; O’Hara’s made it to four. The star defender helped the USWNT claim the championship twice, in 2019 and 2015. At 34, she’s a true veteran—“I’m one of the moms of the group,” she joked to People Magazine—but if the Americans pull off an unprecedented third consecutive win, it’s likely O’Hara’s whip-smart defense will have something to do with it.
O’Hara, who grew up in Fayetteville and Peachtree City, started playing soccer at age four (here she is as a tot soccer player). She played for Fayette County’s Starr’s Mills High School and club teams Peachtree City Lasers and AFC Lightning. O’Hara was a standout player from the start, racking up championships for her high school while traveling abroad to play with the U-17 and U-20 U.S. National Teams.
Local papers loved recounting her remarkable talent, sometimes interviewing opponents who had just been trounced on the pitch. “That Kelley O’Hara is really good,” a player from Collins Hill High School told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2006. “Once she’s around you, there’s no catching her.” O’Hara played college soccer for Stanford University, where she won the MAC Hermann Player of the Year trophy. She went pro after college, and currently plays for NY/NJ Gotham FC.
In 2019, after the Americans clinched a 2-0 final victory against the Netherlands, O’Hara won the internet, first for rescuing an American flag off the ground, and then for kissing her girlfriend Kameryn Stanhouse in a triumphantly low-key coming out. The two got engaged on New Year’s Eve, though O’Hara told Yahoo that wedding planning is on hold while she attempts to secure a third World Cup medal.
Though she lives in New York now, O’Hara owns a place in Atlanta and says the Peach State still feels like home. In 2021, she donned an Atlanta United jersey to hit the Golden Spike at a match against Miami. Plus, she’s very vocal about her love for Chick-fil-A, so we know in her heart she’s still a Georgian.
Emily Sonnett, Marietta’s double-trouble marvel
Position: Center Back
Proof of Georgia roots: Posting photos from Ponce City Market rooftop
In the late 2010s, the Fellowship Christian School’s girls soccer team in Roswell had an unfair advantage: there were two Sonnetts. Emily Sonnett and her twin sister Emma, who grew up in Marietta, were both stand-out players from an early age. “They were very, very good technically for their age,” recalled Sharon Loughran, a former Olympic Development Program coach in Georgia. Emma was recruited by University of Georgia, while Emily signed with University of Virginia.
As a college player, Sonnett brought UVA to multiple regional and national championship games and won numerous awards, including the ESPNW Soccer Player of the Year. After college, she joined Portland Thorns as the first overall pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft. She swapped teams a few times and is now with Seattle’s OL Reign.
Sonnett has dribbled on and off the U.S. National Team roster since high school, getting called up to train with the U-17s in 2011 and later playing for the U-23 squad. In 2015, coach Jill Ellis called her up to the senior USWNT; she’s since delivered one goal and five assists for the team. She was widely expected to earn a spot on the 2023 World Cup roster, especially with the news that stalwart defender and team captain Becky Sauerbrunn would be benched due to injury. As the only center back on the roster with a World Cup under her belt, Sonnett’s experience will be critical as the team heads to New Zealand.
Sonnett’s family is still based in Georgia; twin sister Emma left the soccer world after college and now runs a creative studio in Atlanta. Emily’s here often, judging by her Instagram—sometimes accompanied by fellow Georgians O’Hara and Morgan Gautrat, another Peach State soccer star who unfortunately didn’t make the 2023 roster.
But in a 2019 interview with Fox 5 Atlanta, Sonnett admitted her true motives for visits back to Georgia: “Seeing my family, and uh, Waffle House.”
Where to watch the Women’s World Cup in Atlanta
You can stream every match of the 2023 Women’s World Cup from your sofa, via Fox Sports or FS1 for English telecast, or in Spanish at Telemundo, Universo, or NBC Peacock. But if you prefer to cheer amongst company, here are some of the best spots to catch the games live with your fellow Atlantans. Remember that, due to the 16-hour time difference, some games will air at odd hours, so be sure to check if the venue is open when you plan to watch. You can find the full Women’s World Cup schedule here.
Wild Heaven World Cup Launch Party, USWNT vs. Vietnam: July 21, 2023, 7 p.m.
Local soccer fan club American Outlaws is hosting a VIP watch party for the Americans’ first game at Wild Heaven West End Brewery and Garden. Tickets are $25 and include one free Wild Heaven beer. Learn more here.
Silverbacks Park Watch Parties, USWNT games, July 21-August 20
The soccer club will host multiple watch parties at Willie B’s throughout the World Cup. Events are free and will include games, giveaways, and food specials. See the full event lineup and register here.
Fado Irish Pub Midtown, USWNT games, July 21-August 20
Fado’s Midtown location will hold watch parties for the Americans’ matches throughout the tournament. As a popular soccer bar, this is also a safe bet for catching other national teams’ games during regular business hours. More info here.
Brewhouse Café, Little Five Points
Atlanta’s resident soccer bar is a sure bet for an energetic crowd experience. Brewhouse isn’t hosting any specific watch parties, but if it’s open, you can be sure they’ll be screening the games.
Kirkyard Public House, Kirkwood
With screens all over the bar, this beloved Kirkwood watering hole is a great family-friendly spot to catch daytime or evening matches.
Universal Joint, Decatur
This Decatur restaurant is another family-friendly place to catch games during regular business hours.