Football World Cup: Record crowd expected for Football Ferns clash with world champions USA at Wellington

A record-breaking crowd is expected to watch the Football Ferns host reigning world champions USA at Wellington on Wednesday - the first of two encounters in four days that serve as a big stepping stone on the road to this year's World Cup.

The Americans feature some the biggest names in the game and they play on the biggest stages, so the game won't break any crowd records for the USA, but it will for the NZ women, who will run out in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 - their biggest for a home game.

"I think this is going to be a huge opportunity to take another step forward to see where we're at," said veteran goalkeeper Erin Nayler.

The Football Ferns have craved this chance since a 5-0 drubbing by the Americans at St Louis last year. Last time, they played at home, the Ferns held highly ranked South Korea to a 1-1 draw.

"What I felt in Christchurch is you want to play well for the crowd and I think it also boosted my performance personally," said midfielder Liv Chance. 

The 2008 U17 World Cup final at North Harbour Stadium still boasts the biggest crowd for a women's football match in New Zealand, with 16,000 fans witnessing North Korea's defeat of USA.

Midfielder Crystal Dunn played for the United States that day and wants to create more history at the senior level.

"The women's game has grown so much since that moment, so I think I look forward to this record being broken and just the game being brought here is going to be an awesome experience," she said.

USA celebrate an NZ own goal at St Louis last May
USA celebrate an NZ own goal at St Louis last May. Photo credit: Photosport

Having the US here at this time of the year comes with challenges. This week's fixtures fall outside an international window, meaning clubs don't have to release players.

"Its not perfect, I would say, and the situation we're playing them... I'd like it to be in a FIFA window, where probably we had more opportunity for players to all be here," said Chance. 

"I think it will definitely be the toughest," said Nayler. "It will be the biggest challenge we've ever had."

Maybe that challenge will become a little easier with a large and hopefully vocal crowd.