Playing For the Other Team: 5 Reasons to Keep Watching Women’s Soccer
It happens every time. Every man, woman, and child in the United States goes crazy for women’s soccer for approximately two weeks, only to forget it exists for the next four years. I’m no better. Although I go crazy for women’s soccer during the FIFA World Cup, and then again during the Summer Olympics, too, before forgetting it exists. Say it with me: “Not this time!” There are plenty of reasons why 2015 could be the year that excitement for women’s soccer in the United States is here to stay.
1. GLBT PRIDE
Hello, look at all the lesbians! The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) boasts three out lesbian players and their head coach, Jill Ellis. Led both on and off the field by the legendary and soon-to-be-retired Abby Wambach, the USWNT was the most publicly out team in the FIFA World Cup tournament. A photo of Wambach kissing her wife as she leaned over the rail in congratulations after the championship game went viral. “This is what love looks like!” some people shouted from their computers, while the rest of us yelled, “Oh my god, she’s gonna fall!” Then, during an interview with SportsCenter, midfielder Megan Rapinoe was asked to write down one word to describe herself. Hastily scribbling on her whiteboard, Rapinoe flipped it over and gleefully cried, “GAAAAAAY!”
2. MARSHAWN WHO?
“Beast Mode,” is what they call the Seahawks Marshawn Lynch, for his punishing running style. Compared to Morgan Brian, Alexandra Popp, and Abby Wambach, it’s more like “Kitten Mode.” In the 28th minute of USA vs. Germany, Brian of the USWNT and Popp of Germany both jumped for the ball on a free kick, clashing heads and crumpling to the turf. For about five minutes, both players received medical attention, as home viewers watched blood seep through Popp’s blonde hair. For those of us used to the “flopping” of men’s basketball and soccer, what happened next was unbelievable. Brian walked to the sideline for a quick concussion test, Popp wrapped tape around her head, and then both women ran back onto the field and played the game until the end.
The play was reminiscent of a similar moment in 2010, when Abby Wambach collided with a player from Mexico during a World Cup qualifier. The less queasy and curious can Google “Abby Wambach staples” for a glimpse of how much tougher Wambach is than the rest of us. As she lay on the grass, blood streamed from her head while she waited for the training staff to tend to her. They must have been out of tape, because instead they used a staple gun. WHO HAS STAPLE GUNS ON THE SIDELINES? That’s right, they stapled her head right then and there, as she slightly winced, got up, and kept playing.
Marshawn, you have a lot of beasting to do to catch up.
Two words: Hat Trick. For those of you who associate these words with magicians and rabbits, let me tell you what they mean in fútbol. Three goals by one player in a single game. How about Carli Lloyd with a hat trick in the first 16 minutes of the World Cup Championship vs. Japan, leading the U.S. to their first World Cup Title in 16 years in a 5–2 rout? How about one of those goals being launched from the midfield stripe? The feat was historic in many ways — she became the only woman to score a hat trick in a final, and the fastest to a hat trick among both men and women. Who says soccer isn’t exciting? And if those highlights aren’t enough to rock your socks, watch Hope Solo’s dramatic saves against Australia. Those, combined with the remainder of her performance resulted in the Golden Glove: the World Cup Top Goalkeeper.
4. GET WITH IT
The rest of the world, that is. While football is the most popular sport in the United States, fútbol rules globally. That, and the metric system. C’mon America. Per FIFA’s Big Count, there are over 275 million active players around the world. Compare that to the less than 5000 players total in American-style football leagues around the world, combined.
5. CHAMPIONS IN ACTION
Did I mention all these women currently play on a team near you? Each player on the women’s national team currently is on a roster for one of the nine teams in the National Women’s Soccer League. While the closest team to us here in Minnesota is the Chicago Red Stars, or perhaps FC Kansas City, the league has recently announced a deal with FOX Sports to televise 10 games of the 2015 season, which has already begun. This is great news for those of us that want to see our favorite players in action. Golden Ball winner Carli Lloyd has already scored in her first outing with the Houston Dash, where Morgan Brian also plays. Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe both suit up for the Seattle Reign. The Red Stars boast Christen Press and Julie Johnston, and the Portland Thorns have the new cover girl of EA Sports’ popular video game, FIFA 16, Alex Morgan. Supporting these teams during the U.S. National Team “off-season” creates a stronger team for international competition and provides a host of inspiring women for young athletes to look up to. Not to mention the fact that numerous international stars also play in the league.
BONUS: EASY ON THE EYES
And if I don’t yet have you convinced, let me remind you that these women aren’t exactly, um, hard to watch. Out lesbian Ali Krieger was featured in this year’s edition of ESPN’s Body Issue, and needless to say, with the constant running required in the sport, the women of soccer are in fantastic, uh, shape. A recent conversation in my household went something like:
Me: Dang, with those eyes I’d let Hope Solo get away with anything.
Wife: Excuse me, what? I’m going to trade you in for Abby Wambach.
Me: That’d probably be a good decision.
I know, I know, sexism in sport, and all that, but these women are at their most attractive when they’re doing what they do best, which is winning World Championships in dramatic fashion, giving us history-making and awe-inspiring moments while they’re at it. It’s time we stay tuned.