AUCKLAND, New Zealand — The U.S. women’s national team is leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit of victory at the Women’s World Cup. With their every need taken care of, the players can fully focus on the task at hand. For the duration of their stay in Auckland, U.S. Soccer is handling all the details, including providing an extensive array of food options to ensure the players are properly fueled and ready to perform at their best.
Food plays a crucial role in the team’s preparations, with a dedicated staff of approximately 10 individuals working around the clock to prepare meals for the players. The team’s motto of “food as fuel” is deeply ingrained in their camp culture. “The meals provide all the fuel needed for the players to perform at each practice, recover afterwards, and sleep through the night,” explained USWNT sports dietician Lindsay Langford in an interview with ESPN.
The camp’s highly structured schedule leaves little room for downtime, making meal times a much-anticipated highlight of the players’ days. It is not only an opportunity to nourish their bodies but also to socialize with teammates and unwind. Each evening, the players and staff even partake in a collective “cheers” with a juice shot, fostering camaraderie and team spirit.
While the social aspect is important, the players also relish the diverse menu options provided. “The food here has been amazing. I love when it’s barbecue night — that doesn’t happen often, so that’s probably why,” shared forward Lynn Williams, chuckling. “We do have an Asian fusion bowl situation — there are poke bowls and then there’s a teriyaki bowl — I feel like those are very popular.”
The menu is carefully curated and changes daily to keep things fresh. It always includes two protein choices, a variety of starches and vegetables, as well as stations where players can customize their own salads, fruit platters, and yogurt bowls. Additionally, the staff organizes “player spotlight meals,” where a player gets to collaborate with the team’s nutritionist and chef to design a meal of their choice.
The catering team also accommodates players with special dietary requirements. Forward and co-captain Alex Morgan and defender Sofia Huerta have openly discussed following a vegan diet, which excludes all animal-derived foods. Alana Cook maintains a plant-based diet, while some players avoid dairy. USWNT’s nutritionist, Lindsay Langford, ensures that these players’ needs are met without compromising their performance.
The composition of the meals is tailored to the players’ game schedule. The day before a match, known as “Match Day Minus-1” in World Cup terminology, features a selection of carbohydrate-rich dishes. Langford explains, “You might find the menu built with a starchy vegetable, an extra premade sandwich option or open-face toast, or an entree that screams higher carb.”
Post-match meals allow the players to indulge a bit more. “The day after a game is often a time for more ‘fun’ foods on the menu without as much emphasis on functionality,” Langford reveals. “They have to live a little like everyone else — pork bacon, breakfast Danish — but you’ll also find smoked salmon or chia seed pudding to aid in the anti-inflammatory aspect of recovery.”
Striking the right balance between taste and nutrition is no easy feat, but the catering team strives to cater to everyone’s preferences. “Tacos or anything Mexican and poke bowls are definitely the most popular meals,” Langford notes. “I continue to push beets on the menu, but they’re definitely not the most popular item.”
While U.S. Soccer did bring their own supply of protein powders and supplements to New Zealand, the majority of ingredients are sourced locally from within Auckland. The team has spared no expense in their preparations for the Women’s World Cup, with each participating team receiving $960,000 from FIFA to cover their tournament expenses. U.S. Soccer allocated a significant portion of this budget to expanding their base camp in Auckland and renovating the space to meet their specific needs. This includes the provision of a private chef and round-the-clock meals, a luxury not every team has chosen to invest in.
Defender Emily Fox expresses her gratitude for the team’s access to such top-notch culinary services. “We’re very fortunate that we, one, have a nutritionist and, two, also have a chef,” Fox reveals. “I’m excited to go to the meal room every day to get some food.”
As the U.S. women’s national team continues their journey at the Women’s World Cup, they can take comfort in knowing that their nutritional needs are being expertly catered to. With a well-fed and well-rested squad, they are poised to give their all on the pitch and compete for the ultimate prize.