U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Year-in-Review

Emily Lu, Editor-in-Chief

It’s not uncommon for the world of women’s sports to be masked by the overwhelmingly more popular realm of men’s sports. However one group of women has broken all sorts of barriers and spoken out against this discrimination with their immense success in 2015, the US Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT).

There’s no doubt critics were quick to fire sexist comments about teams while on their journey to the World Cup this past summer. The constant shadow of female athletes’ lack of talent compared to their gender counterpart loomed around the media; the team was only able to challenge this through the phenomenal play that followed.

The FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup (WWC) Final proved to be nothing but excitement and pride. With Carli Lloyd’s record breaking fastest World Cup hat trick finished off with a bold strike from midfield – all of which happen within 16 minutes – the result was clear. Winning the World Cup, however, was more than the marvelous feeling of hard work paying off; more than the hoist of a momentous trophy after a fifteen year drought; more than the endorsements, media, and victory tour that followed. It showed everyone just how strong, powerful, and hard-working female athletes could be. Most of all, they were able to use their platform to advocate against gender inequality.

Other statistics and facts highlight the work of the Gals, a moniker for the team, this year. The WWC Final rang in as the most-watched soccer game in American history. The USWNT was also the first team of all-female athletes to be honored with a ticker-tape parade in New York City, which was accompanied by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

With the attention the team received from their marvelous win, they were able to bring issues out of the dark and into the media. One of these was the astounding sexism the team faced. It’s no secret that FIFA has had a history of unjust treatment for the development of the women’s’ game. The USWNT collected a $2 million prize for their win, a pale figure compared to the $35 million awarded to the German championship men’s team the previous year.

Another huge controversy the women have shed light on is the conflict against turf. Playing on these artificial surfaces is “a nightmare,” as now retired star forward Abby Wambach said. All six of the venues for the WWC tournament were turf; in comparison to the men, well “the men would strike playing on artificial turf,” Wambach notes. With several players suing and signing petitions for the conditions of the fields, FIFA only threatened to punish them. This clear gap in equality is only one of the countless women have to deal with.

The publicity has allowed the Gals to rise as role models for young girls as well. One empowering commercial for Goldiblox, a toy designed for developing interest in engineering in girls, featured a clip of a youngster dressed up as Abby Wambach while promoting “#iLookLikeaWorldChampion”. This tribute to feminism advocates against the hindrance of stereotypes on young girls, preventing them from pursuing their best interests, whether that be a sports star or president.

2015 was a year where the USWNT was able to substantiate and prove just how much strength they possess to the skeptics. But through this, a continued fight for justice has progressed and 2016 will hopefully see results of the battles won.

 

Note from the Editor: It would be irresponsible to neglect the inclusion of USWNT goalie Hope Solo’s domestic violence case. On June 21, 2014, Solo was arrested and charged for a domestic incident involving her nephew and half-sister. The hearings for the case were held in January of 2015, and the judge soon found that Solo could not be held accountable due to a lack of cooperation from the alleged victims. However, prosecutors opened an appeal with the Superior Court of Washington, for which hearings began in early October.

During the original court proceedings, Solo was kept from playing in only one game. This sparked a debate over whether or not there was a double standard in some American professional sports, especially following harsher punishments in incidents of player-initiated domestic violence in the National Football League (NFL), with Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal — who had previously criticized the NFL for their latency in punishing player Ray Rice after his own domestic abuse scandal — writing in a letter to the U.S. Soccer President, “Regardless of whether the violence is a man striking a woman, a woman striking a man, or same-sex violence, [d]omestic violence is intolerable particularly for an athlete representing the United States of America on the global stage.”

This incident appears to stand out in stark contrast to the USWNT’s record of promoting equal treatment on the basis of gender, and is more concurrent with the handling of domestic violence that was formerly commonplace in the NFL and is currently making headlines in the National Hockey League (NHL). Depending on how the appeal process goes for the prosecution in Washington, this case could result in scrutiny towards domestic violence similar to that which the NFL received this past season.