The author is a forward for the NWSL’s Washington Spirit. A Connecticut native who starred at Penn State, she has also played for clubs in Finland, Brazil, Sweden, Denmark and Canada. She is editor of Our Game Magazine, co-founder of a Connecticut-based youth club called girlsCAN and blogs regularly on her personal website. This being a World Cup year, we asked her to submit periodic columns. Her fifth installment:
The last two summers, we have been spoiled with World Cups. I get the same feeling toward the end of a World Cup that I do toward the end of eating a piece of Carvel ice cream cake: I never want it to end.
I know I’m not alone either.
There is something extremely addicting about a tournament. Any tournament. The latter stages of Champions League or a country’s cup competition; youth tournaments; the NCAA tournaments — anything where teams can be eliminated and matchups come unexpectedly.
The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup has left a lot of us wanting more. Which is great because there is more, lots more.
After the men’s World Cup last year, I followed so many players that I didn’t know much about. I learned a lot about a Colombian named James Rodriguez and a German named Thomas Mueller.
I found out what clubs they played for and watched them any chance I could. I don’t get beIN Sports, so I had to find a lot of sketchy streams to watch. But I did it. I found a way. I knew what they were capable of on the biggest stage; I could only imagine what they were capable of for their clubs.
I watched Mueller for Bayern Munich and started enjoying that team along the way. I enjoyed Rodriguez and Real Madrid. I had my horizons broadened beyond my typical Saturday morning Premier League fixtures.
This year is no different for me, and I am trying to put my finger on exactly why it’s different for other people in this country. There are fans all over the United States who love Carli Lloyd and Julie Johnston and Kelley O’Hara as a result of the World Cup. But last time I checked, love should be unconditional. Love should see no (jersey) color.
I’ve had incredible fans throughout my career. They have been there for me for every team I’ve played for. They’ve watched streams from Denmark and Finland; they’ve translated articles in Portuguese when I was in Brazil; and sent me care packages everywhere I’ve been.
Those are the fans that make a lasting impression. They support me no matter where I’m playing, whether I’m out for a year with an ACL injury or scoring the tying goal in the NWSL semifinals or even if I’m not playing well. They are there for me.
And those are the fans the U.S. women’s national team players deserve. Fans who support them regardless if they’re injured or playing in Europe or winning the Golden Ball. Fans who appreciate the way they play and how they conduct themselves off the field. Fans who want to see more of them.
Carli Lloyd has been doing what she did in the World Cup for years. I know this because I am a fan of Carli Lloyd. I watched her with the U.S. under-21 squad, the Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC, the Western New York Flash and Houston Dash. She’s been around for a while and, if you haven’t noticed her until now, you’re forgiven.
Lucky for you, there’s the National Women’s Soccer League. It runs from April to October. It can be found in Houston, Seattle, Portland, Kansas City, Rochester, Boston, northern New Jersey and the Chicago and D.C. areas. There are about 200 players in the league. Twenty-three of them, you know very well. The rest, well they ain’t so bad either.
And if you can’t get to those games live, YouTube is this cool website that shows all of the NWSL games live and all past matches too. It gets better. Fox Sports 1 will carry games this season, including the playoffs and championship. It’s easier than ever to follow women’s soccer, which is awesome because women’s soccer is better than ever. The quality is high. The players are incredible people who do much more than just play soccer. (Look at me, I’m writing for The Washington Post!) And our national team is the best in the world right now.
Whether you’re a fan of soccer, a parent with kids who play soccer or a kid who loves playing, the future of the national team players and this league could have a direct impact on your future.
I know kids dream of playing on the national team and in the World Cup, and I encourage every single kid to continue those dreams.
Almost every NWSL player started with a dream to play at the highest level. The NWSL needs to survive so the next generation has a place to live out its dreams. That survival starts with the fans.
Watch a game. Talk about it. Write about it. Scream about it from the rooftops.
Women’s soccer is here. It’s been here. Let’s keep it here.