Now that the dust has settled from the United States National Women’s National Team’s third World Cup title, it’s time to reflect and evaluate what the victory means. Despite FIFA’s best efforts to hold back the women’s game, this tournament was a huge success. Not only in the ratings department, but in the quality of the matches. The 2015 Women’s World Cup was the most entertaining to date, and that is largely due to the increase of talent not just in America, but around the globe.
The bar has not been set, it’s continuing to be raised, which is a great thing to see. Gone are the days of bashing women’s soccer because they’re not as good as the men. Of course there will always be misogynists out there, but the women’s game has risen above that. This Women’s World Cup demonstrated that women can beat defenders off the dribble. And yes, they can score from distance. No, not Carli Lloyd’s bomb from midfield, although that was an impressive goal. But consistently curling balls into the top corner from outside the box from both set pieces and the run of play. They can work triangles and knock the ball around like the Barcas and Bayerns of the world.
The popularity of the women’s game is undeniable at this point. The 2015 Women’s World Cup Final was the most watched soccer match in American history. The official champions t-shirt sold out in a matter of hours, before the shirts could even reach stores. And to further prove my point, they’re making the women’s jerseys in men’s sizes for the first time. Not only that, they’re selling. But the popularity needs to sustain itself.
Hopefully this latest World Cup triumph for the American women translates into long-term success of their professional league, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Many of the teams in the league have already set record ticket sales for their first match after the World Cup final, and many of them are reporting an increase in ticket sales for future games post World Cup. A handful even sold out matches for the first time in their history. Not only do I hope it adds more support for the sport domestically, I hope the 2015 World Cup grows the game globally, with more countries joining the fray of an already crowded talent pool. Soccer Federations around the world should take notice and increase funding for the women’s teams and leagues.
Soccer in this country is already the most popular sport for girls, but it needs to continue up through the system. It can’t just be parents watching their girls play on the weekend and not caring after that. There should be support for the NWSL, an added interest other than the selfish nature of parents getting a bumper sticker on the back of their car so they can say “Hey look my kid plays soccer! Look at me!” Take your kids to a pro match. You never know, you might find yourself wrapped up in the action.
If you enjoyed watching the Women’s World Cup, that type of play happens in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) every weekend during the spring through the summer. It shouldn’t only be about the flag and patriotism, only caring because it represents America. While that’s important and worthy of supporting, you should want to watch soccer for love of the game first and foremost. If you’re new hero is Carli Lloyd, she plies her trade in Houston with the Dash. If your favorite player is Alex Morgan or Tobin Heath, they play for the Portland Thorns. Megan Rapinoe or Hope Solo? Then check out the Seattle Reign. If you fell in love with the “Department of Defense” during the World Cup; Ali Krieger plays for the Washington Spirit along with fellow National Team teammate, goalie Ashlyn Harris. Julie Johnston plays in Chicago for the Red Stars, Becky Sauerbrunn plays for FC Kansas City and Meghan Klingenberg is teammates with Lloyd in Houston.
Up and coming star Morgan Brian also plays for the Houston Dash. Super sub Kelley O’Hara plays for Sky Blue FC in New Jersey along with National Team captain Christie Rampone. The trio of forwards, including Christen Press, can be seen in Chicago, Amy Rodriguez with FC Kansas City and Sydney Leroux up in Western New York with the Flash. Lauren Holiday and Heather O’Reilly are teammates in Kansas City. Lori Chalupny and Shannon Boxx play in Chicago. Whitney Engen plays for Western New York and Alyssa Naeher plays up in Boston with the Breakers.
Not only can you cheer on your favorite players from the US National Team in the NWSL, internationals for other teams that participated in the World Cup also call the league home. Canada stars Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns), Erin McLeod (Houston Dash) and Melissa Tancredi (Chicago Red Stars). Australians Kyah Simon (Boston Breakers), Samantha Kerr and Caitlin Foord (Sky Blue FC) and England Lioness Jodie Taylor (Portland Thorns). In all 52 players in the NWSL participated in the World Cup, representing 9 different countries.
There is no excuse to not support the NWSL, as all the matches can be viewed in their entirety on YouTube. Many of them are live streamed, with the replay going up permanently on YouTube. You can even watch most of the matches in full 1080 HD. Tickets to attend matches in person are affordable; cheap by comparison to other top-tier pro leagues like MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL.