In the four years since the United States Women’s National Team won its third World Cup, fans of the team wondered what could they do for an encore.
Well done, ladies.
With its 2-0 win over Netherlands, the U.S. is now back-to-back world champions, securing its fourth World Cup all time. Lost in the consecutive World Cup wins is the fact that the U.S. lost the 2011 final to Japan. It’s been an impressive run.
But this year’s world title does much more than just earn the U.S. a fourth star on its kit and another trip down the Canyon of Heroes in New York City. This win will serve as another moment of growth for a game that continues to evolve.
Domestically, the win further raises the profile of the women’s game and will inspire another generation of players to grab their shin pads and lace up their boots in an effort to emulate Alex, Megan, Crystal, Lindsey and others.
From the days of the 99ers, millions of girls including the 23 on this year’s World Cup roster, have been inspired to hit the pitch and learn a game that may have been foreign to many. That will continue.
But the U.S. women will also inspire women across the world inside the game and out. The level of play from a host of teams in South America and Europe continues improving.
Nations with long soccer/football histories such as the Dutch, England, Italy and Argentina continue to grow and improve their respective women’s teams. That will narrow the gap between others and the U.S. and make the game more competitive, which will drive interest.
But the U.S. team reached a new level at the 2019 World Cup. They pissed some people off.
Megan Rapinoe, who came home with lots of hardware, was not shy about her feelings about the president or (not) making a trip to the White House. Some of her mates such as Alex Morgan, who mimicked sipping tea after a goal against England, drew the ire of the much more irritating Piers Morgan. And we all know the team’s stance on equal pay has rankled others.
But this group of 23 women took another step up the mountain and a good one in my opinion. They were willing to speak on various issues and did not care about the backlash. In fact, they seem to thrive on it.
Sometimes, an athlete initially has to take the hits to win the fight. Muhammad Ali learned that. He was vilified for his political views during the 1960s and by the time he lit the Olympic flame at the 1996 Summer games in Atlanta, he was an American icon. The moment Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fits on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico is now seen as one of the more iconic sports moments in U.S. history. It did not make many happy at that time.
As for the U.S. women, in the end, the backed up all their talk and left France World Champions. Again.
They worked hard. Spoke up on issues they believed in. And stayed true to those beliefs. Is there really anything more American than that?
Greg Sleter in the publisher and editor of SleterFC.com.