They have been so good for so long, we take them for granted. They won again? Ho-hum. What we shouldn’t expect — or tolerate — is their own federation taking them for granted.
On Thursday, the USSF announced the men’s national team will play Germany on June 2 at RFK Stadium in the “Centennial Celebration Match,” a salute to 100 years of organized soccer in this country. Great matchup, terrific event, historic venue. Well done.
But what about the women? They will be in action that day as well … in Toronto to play Canada. There are no plans at the moment for a women’s home game tied directly to the USSF’s centennial.
USSF officials say they tried (see the lower half of this link for explanations) but couldn’t pull it off — a failure on the federation’s part and disrespectful to a program that has won World Cup trophies and Olympic gold medals, drawn some of the largest crowds in American soccer history and inspired a generation of female athletes. The most famous soccer player in American history (domestically, anyway) is a woman: Mia Hamm.
Yes, as a spectator sport, men’s soccer is more popular than women’s soccer in this country. The men’s national team played its first official match in 1916; the women in 1985. The men attract the sponsors and TV deals. MLS is in its 18th season and growing. Women’s leagues have failed twice and, if not for USSF subsidies and federation president Sunil Gulati‘s deep involvement, the soon-to-launch NWSL would not exist. The USSF’s motive is player development, not to build a profitable league, but that is besides the point. It took action, and women’s soccer will be better for it. Bravo, USSF.
But the federation dropped the ball on the centennial planning. It’s not like Gulati and Co. were taken by surprise. They had, oh, 100 years to plan for this.
The women deserve a stand-alone game to honor their wealth of achievements. At the very least, they deserved to be part of a doubleheader with the men. Instead, while the federation celebrates itself and its history in Washington this summer, the women will play on foreign soil, relegated to coverage on ESPNews. (Find that on your cable box.)
For this, the USSF deserves a red card.