Americans have come to expect superiority in all sports. We have the best basketball, baseball, and football teams in the world. We have 2,549 Olympic medals, more than any country. We have even produced the most Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest winners. Why can’t we produce the best soccer players?
Actually, we can. The US Women’s National Team has made a comeback at this year’s Women’s World Cup, overturning deficits in games as well as the downward trend since we last won a World Cup in 1999. In fact, the USWNT is the joint most successful women’s team with two titles, tied with Germany who won both titles since 1999. We are the only team to make it to at least the semifinals in every tournament so far, and this year we’re in the finals again, contesting for a record breaking third World Cup.
Some might scoff at the importance of superiority in soccer, whether men’s or women’s, but Americans should take special pride in the fact that we have one of the best women’s teams in the world, even while we don’t have the best men’s team. The success of our women’s program is a testament to gender equality and opportunity for all athletes in the US. Consider that a country that values soccer as much as Italy didn’t even qualify their women’s national team for the Women’s World Cup. The USWNT defeated the best footballing country in the world, Brazil, in the quarterfinals of the competition this year. Our fantastic team is built not so much on a strong soccer culture in the US, but on decades of promoting female athletes, including great funding for our women’s program compared to other countries. In fact, it is the success of our women’s team that could very well continue the development of a strong soccer culture in the US.
If this isn’t enough to get you excited about the USWNT, consider that three players of the twenty on the World Cup squad are Stanford graduates: Nicole Barnhart ’04, Rachel Buehler ’07, Kelley O’Hara ’09. No other school has as many on the team.
The USWNT faces Japan in the final tomorrow, Sunday July 17th, at 11:45 Pacific time. The USWNT has never lost to Japan in any of their 25 meetings. What a perfect chance to watch the US dominate at yet another sporting event. Go USA!