Sports

World Cup star Megan Rapinoe brings victory tour to House of Soccer in Charlotte

Let Megan Rapinoe’s victory tour roll on.

Next stop? Charlotte.

Rapinoe, a co-captain on the U.S. Women’s World Cup-winning team, will be in uptown this weekend in conjunction with Saturday’s International Champions Cup game between Arsenal and Fiorentina. She will be part of Relevent Sports Group’s House of Soccer fan fest, a crossover between sports, music, culture, and the host city’s community.

“What an exciting opportunity,” Rapinoe told the Observer in a phone interview. “It seems like just an incredible soccer city, so to be able to bring some hype and excitement on top of what’s already happening, having those two incredible teams there, just was a no-brainer for me.”

Rapinoe is slated to host a skills training session with The Creative Player Foundation on Saturday afternoon and will also do the ceremonial coin toss for the match later that day.

“Yeah I’m going to be teaching some skills, dropping a little knowledge,” Rapinoe said with a laugh. “I think I’ll just generally be the hype woman for the skill challenge ... Ultimately just trying to give the kids an amazing experience and maybe teach them a thing or two, but really get them excited about this weekend.”

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Rapinoe may be the headliner, but she won’t be the only celebrity at House of Soccer. Teammate Crystal Dunn, a former North Carolina star, also will be in attendance Friday, as will ex-Tar Heel Heather O’Reilly, a member of the 2015 World Cup champions.

Other local celebrities participating in House of Soccer events include former Carolina Panthers Charles Johnson, Kurt Coleman, Tre Boston and Dwan Edwards. Two Charlotte Hornets, Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams, are also partaking.

Outside of athletes with local ties, soccer freestylers Indi Cowie, Skye Cowie and DJ Diveny will be performing. Southern hip-hop group Grits & Biscuits is the headliner for Friday’s concert, and country music star Walker Hayes will headline Saturday.

More celebrity appearances will be announced throughout the week.

But everyone else aside, Rapinoe is the clear main act. Not only was Rapinoe the top scorer at the World Cup, but she was awarded the Golden Ball for the tournament’s best overall player and the FIFA Women’s World Cup Player of the Match in the final against the Netherlands.

During the United States’ march to the title and in the week since the championship, Rapinoe has made headlines for speaking out on social issues, including gender equality, closing the gender pay gap, and increased rights and acceptance for the LGBTQ community. Rapinoe, who currently dates WNBA star Sue Bird, told the Observer that the momentum of the World Cup victory has inspired people to continue speaking out in favor of equal rights for people of all genders and sexualities.

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Throughout the Women’s World Cup in France and since leading the U.S. to its fourth title, co-captain Megan Rapinoe has been vocal about many social issues, including LGBTQ rights. Seth Wenig AP

“I think for us on the team, and us female athletes — and especially being a gay female athlete — my whole life experience is very intersectional,” Rapinoe said. “I feel like for us, to be honest, it’s not that we’re playing our sport and then we choose to bring politics into it, or bring equal pay or gender equality — it’s sort of always there for us anyways, and it’s just a part of our everyday life.

“To be able to continue to talk about that on some of the biggest stages and in front of some huge audiences, and having so many people listening to what we’re saying right now and getting on board and feeling inspired ... is actually quite amazing. I mean, I feel like this is what we want and what we’ve wanted for a long time, just to find a way to bring this message to the most people that we possibly can.”

Want to Go?

International Champions Cup

House of Soccer: 5 p.m., Friday and noon, Saturday, Romare Bearden Park

Arsenal vs. Fiorentina: 6 p.m., Saturday, Bank of America Stadium

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Brendan Marks is a general assignment sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, NASCAR and more. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked for the Observer since August 2017.
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