Three hours before the first of two Women's World Cup quarterfinal matches last night at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, Kami Brown and her family unfurled two turquoise Pocahontas beach towels and sprawled out for a good chat. They had snagged one of the first parking spots, a much-coveted acquisition.
"Our girls have never seen a big stadium and we've never been here," said Brown, who said they left their Waldorf home early expecting traffic snarls along the way.
The Browns breezed right in, but others struggled to get through heavy rush-hour traffic on the Capital Beltway. Most cars that reached the parking lots were brimming with families and young children, Prince George's County Police officials said, which meant a smaller number of cars than what they are used to for such a crowd. A crowd of 54,642 attended the games, which was close to what police expected.
"It's all moms and dads and kids and minivans," said Ed Burke, commander of special events for Prince George's County Police. "It's as polite as can be . . . not at all like Redskins games."
Not all, though, were so lucky.
"You have never heard `Are we there yet?' so much in your life," said Scott DiGiammarino, who left Tysons Corner with his two daughters late and arrived halfway through the game between the United States and Germany.
"They started crying. . . . I almost brought their whole team," said DiGiammarino, who coaches the girls' Pink Power team.
Once the DiGiammarino girls -- Amanda, 7, and Emma, 3 -- entered the stadium and heard the markedly female roar coming from the stands, however, Dad was quickly forgiven. Enveloped in chairs otherwise fit for hefty football fans, the two pulled their knees to their chest and gawked at the crowd, saying all the people looked like "bunches of little dots."
"We were worried we were going to miss the whole thing," said Amanda, tugging at her electric pink soccer garb. "But now we convinced dad to let us stay for the second game [between Nigeria and Brazil]."
There were other delays too. Lines for the Metro shuttle buses from the Landover Metro stop to the stadium became a little backlogged near the start of the first game, stadium officials said. But that problem quickly evaporated and most ticket takers at the gates said only trickles of people came late.
Even the Mazzawi family made it to the match. En route from New York to North Carolina on their way home from vacation, the Mazzawis heard about the games on the radio around Pennsylvania and knew they would have to pick up the pace a little to make it. Make it they did, with time to spare.
"I don't like playing with girls; there are a lot of girls here," said David Mazzawi, 9. "But this is neat. It is like a big warehouse in here."
When the gates opened at 5:30 p.m., long lines spread from the stadium in all directions. But at least early in the evening, lines for tickets were tidy and short, never more than six or eight in any line.
Molly, Emily and Rebecca Martin -- triplets who had the words "Mia Hamm," the star U.S. player, emblazoned in orange paint across their foreheads -- said they were in one of the first five or six cars to arrive.
"We've got lots of energy," said Emily, who added that she and her sisters arrived early enough to spot Hamm as she entered the stadium with the team.
CAPTION: Early arrivers had no trouble getting to last night's game to see Mia Hamm, left, but an eventual 20-mile backup left thousands of seats empty at kickoff.
CAPTION: Despite traffic jams outside, Erin Tambs, 16, and Cari Hegyi, 17, from Buffalo, enjoy the matches. Long lines spread in all directions when gates opened.