By the penultimate match of the 2022 European Championship, 87,192 people filed themselves into Wembley Stadium — a record. Another 17.5 million watched on televisions in England, and 17.9 million Germans tuned in as well — both records. Millions more around the globe tuned in as well.
The success of the tournament has been touted as a significant moment for women’s football in England but also the whole of Europe. If common sense is used (which, we’ll see) a lot of countries, federations, clubs, leagues, broadcasters, and potential partners will take note of this growth and how it came about. This means that the long rumored claim that ‘the gap is closing between the USWNT and the rest of the world’ has never been truer than it is right now.
We all may find out just how true that is or isn’t on October 7th (in front of an already sold out crowd) when the two teams will face off in Wembley Stadium. But in many ways the fact that the match will even happen is a statement by both federations. Regardless of that result, England’s historic victory was monumental not merely as a meteoric run to a major trophy that ended a 56-year drought, but validation of the potential of support, investment, infrastructure and resources. It’s incredible what can happen when the Football Association allows analysts, medical professionals and a sleep specialist who work with the men’s team to work with the women.
Whereas the USWNT has had an advantage through Title IX, which keeps talented young women players in the sport, domestic soccer must also be heavily supported if the U.S. is to have a shot at keeping its crown. The only way we, as supporters, can aid with this is to show up to games, or tune in as often as we can.
Unfortunately, in America there’s an internalized idea that Europe owns club football. In men’s football that’s true, but in women’s football it isn’t. Though clubs like OL Reign, Chicago Red Stars or Washington Spirit don’t reverberate in soccer spaces the way Chelsea, Manchester City or Barcelona do, when it comes to the women’s game they should.
The USWNT has won 4 World Cups, including the last one in 2019. The club also has a ridiculous collection of young up and coming talent, and whether some make it to the USWNT or not, the team that chases a fifth World Cup next year will undoubtedly be filled with players who play week in week out in the NWSL. Domestically, outside of World Cups, we’ve taken a lot of the talent we have weekly access to for granted.
Now’s the perfect, and albeit vital, time to reverse that trend. Cementing the grassroots paths we’ll need to shift to in order to keep up with the boom sparked in Europe requires that we support our players and domestic league. The best news is that it’s a win-win (ugh, I hate that I just said that) for you.
As stated, the overwhelming majority of the USWNT’s player pool plays weekly in the NWSL. But the NWSL is also unique in that even talent not connected to the USWNT, or other national teams, is absurd. Every possible matchup consists of multiple players worth the price of admission or your 90 minutes. Just last weekend Australian Alex Chidiac scored after a ridiculous tightrope dribble and shot from an impossible angle, Lo’eau Labonta played an exceptional long pass for a smooth looping two touch finish from CeCe Kizer, and Canadian Sophie Schmidt scored the Banger of the Week.
This was all in addition to names you may already know doing feats of outrageousness: Tobin Heath scored a game winning left footed volley that nutmegged the keeper, 20-year-old star Trinity Rodman scored a brace, and Sophia Smith did a(n already) classic Sophia Smith.
It’s worth noting that even as talented as the England team is, they didn’t achieve success until after their primary domestic league was professionalized and a major broadcasting deal was agreed to. Internally, they also had a lot of work to do, which they finally got right by recruiting Sarina Wiegman.
All of these things matter, and if you care about the continued domination of U.S. women’s soccer, supporting the domestic league is a must. Also turns out you get to watch the very best players in the world – a pretty sweet deal.
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