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U.S. Women Win World Cup. What Now?

July 8th, 2019 · No Comments · soccer, World Cup

Demonstrating global superiority has been the straight-forward bit for the U.S. women’s national team.

The Fifa Women’s World Cup has been contested eight times since its founding in 1991, and the Yanks have won four of those tournaments, including the past two, now that a 2-0 conquest of The Netherlands can be added to the list.

The difficult part still lies ahead, and that will be turning proven interest in the women’s national team into a set of stable and profitable clubs. Each club will confront the reality that if will have only a few of the 2019 World Cup players.

Will people pay to see women’s club teams in the U.S.? The answer has not been encouraging so far.

The first professional women’s soccer league, the Women’s United Soccer Association, appeared in 2001, two years after the Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain team that defeated China in the Rose Bowl. That league disappeared two years later. Women’s Professional Soccer had a 2009 debut and went out of business in 2011.

In 2012, the National Women’s Soccer League was formed with the backing of the U.S., Mexican and Canadian federations, and it still exists, though not many would know.

(In case you were wondering, Alex Morgan plays for the Orlando Pride and Megan Rapinoe plays for Reign FC, in Tacoma, Washington.)

Which leads us … where?

The good news is, the odd schedule for women’s big events has the World Cup and the Olympics in back-to-back years, and the U.S. has automatically qualified for Tokyo 2020, where the 12-nation women’s tournament begins July 22 and ends August 7.

The bad news? The Tokyo Summer Games may be the last time the Americans approach a major tournament with an apparent talent advantage over everyone else.

The Olympics has been a U.S. bastion: Four golds and a silver in the six Olympics since the women joined the party at Atlanta 1996. Fans can reasonably expect most of the team that just won the World Cup to be in Tokyo. (It will be during the two-year absence of a big event, in 2021 and 2022, that the numerous veterans will be more likely to retire.)

Barring a sudden surge of interest in the domestic women’s game, the best women’s leagues will increasingly be found in Europe, which produced seven of the eight quarterfinalists at the 2019 World Cup. That performance would suggest top players from all over the planet will gather there, in the Old World, at clubs like Lyon and Paris-Saint Germain and a batch of English teams, including Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.

One year may not be enough for Tokyo-bound Great Britain or Sweden or The Netherlands to climb past the Yanks, but three or four years might be.

Thus, celebrate the new victory; think in terms of another in Tokyo; but after that …

A strong domestic league would help perpetuate U.S. success by offering more paid opportunities for American players. And it might also keep them where U.S. fans can see them, as opposed to some wealthy club in London.

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