The United States touched down in Auckland on Tuesday in the lead-up to their bid for a third consecutive Women’s World Cup title, hoping to be New Zealand fans’ second favourite team after the home Football Ferns.

Vlatko Andonovski’s side were greeted at the airport by fans waving welcome signs before proceeding to their hotel in Auckland’s CBD.

It is the second time the US have visited New Zealand in six months, having held a training camp in the country in January when they beat the World Cup co-hosts in two matches series in Wellington and Auckland.

“For us, preparation for the World Cup started a while ago,” Andonovski told reporters at the airport.

“We were here in January, and started our work with the community then. “We almost feel like now, like (we’re) home again,” “Like I said in January, we want to become New Zealand’s second favourite team.”

The US will be based in Auckland during the tournament, which is being co-hosted by Australia, and play all their Group E matches in New Zealand.

The four-times champions begin their campaign against Vietnam at Eden Park on July 22 before taking on Netherlands and Portugal.

The Americans beat Wales 2-0 in San Jose, California on Sunday in their final warm-up before the tournament.

Megan Rapinoe, who won the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards at the 2019 World Cup in France, did not play against the Welsh and announced last week she will retire at the end of the National Women’s Soccer League season.

Andonovski, however, said the 38-year-old forward will be a key part of the US campaign in Australia and New Zealand.

“She’s a true pro, she knows what she needs to do to win these big tournaments,” he said. “So having her here with the young ones like Sophia (Smith), Trinity (Rodman) and Alyssa (Thompson) will be very important.” The World Cup runs from July 20 to Aug. 20.

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