At 5:30 a.m. on the last day of Independence Day weekend, Tracey and Craig Shimek from Bellevue started a line outside the Rhein Haus bar in Capitol Hill. They were there to watch the United States Women’s National soccer team take on the Netherlands in the Women’s World Cup final.
By the 8 a.m. kickoff, Rhein Haus was at standing-room only with an estimated 850-person crowd, the largest the restaurant has ever seen for a soccer game, general manager Jeremy Walcott said.
The packed walkways and lack of seating didn’t seem to matter to most people. Attention was glued to every TV and screams of excitement echoed throughout the building.
“It makes me excited that we have created a great atmosphere for people to come,” Walcott said. “It makes me so happy that everyone is happy to come and enjoy what we do. I get chills every time the place goes up the walls.”
Simone Barley-Greenfield, who came to the watch party with her mom, her former neighbors and their own children, said members of her group had come to the restaurant days prior to scope out the best seating for their party of 12. She said the family was set on coming to Rhein Haus for its camaraderie and welcoming environment.
“It’s just very Seattle,” she said. “There is a good group of people that are local and want to be here and support the women’s team.”
A portion of the restaurant’s morning crowd said coming to the watch party was for more than just watching the game. It was about coming together for the love of the game.
Sisters Gaby and Lisa de Jongh were a prime example. Standing out in the crowd of red, white and blue, the women wore matching orange and black scarfs to represent the Netherlands. They cheered with joy whenever the ball went in the Netherlands’ favor even though they were drowned out by the crowd of mostly U.S. fans. But what mattered more to them was being surrounded by fellow soccer fans watching two great teams bring attention the sport.
“It really is a universal sport and is played around the world and all you need is a ball,” Gaby said. “Everybody knows the rules and everybody can play. I mean, it’s called the ‘beautiful game’ for a reason. The people who love soccer just love to come together, regardless of who they are rooting for.”
In the 79th minute of the game Sunday, the restaurant erupted into loud applause for Reign FC forward and USWNT’s co-captain Megan Rapinoe as she was substituted out of the game after scoring the team’s first goal.
“I think it’s important right now that women are standing up for themselves, and she’s honoring herself by standing up,” said Meredith Conley, who wore a shirt picturing Rapinoe with her arms outstretched in celebration of beating France in the World Cup quarterfinals. “I think it’s important that we honor our women athletes as much as we do our men.”
The crowd roared as the game concluded with the U.S. winning its fourth World Cup by defeating the Dutch, 2-0.
Moments after, the room went quiet as what was left of the crowd watched Nike’s newest ad congratulating the USWNT for its victory and for also creating history within the world of women’s athletics.
The commercial ended with the traditional soccer chant, “I believe that we will win.” What was left of the crowd on the patio followed suit and joined together to let out one final celebration for the team that stole worldwide attention in its run to making history and winning the World Cup.