Why The US Women’s Team Is Great At Soccer


[Narrator] On June 11, 2019,
the US women’s soccer team beat Thailand 13 to 0. That’s more goals than
any team has ever scored in a game in the history of the World Cup. It’s also more goals than the US men’s team has scored in every World Cup since 2006 combined. Yeah, the women’s team dominates. In fact, as of 2019, they’re
the No. 1 ranked team in the world. So, why are American
women so good at soccer? Well, it starts with this graph. For at least four decades, women’s soccer has been rapidly gaining
popularity in the US. In 1971, for example, there were only 700 high-school
female soccer players. But by 2014, that number had grown to nearly 376,000. And more young players means: Eileen Narcotta-Welp:
That there is gonna be an increase in competition, which means that’s going to lead to better technical and tactical play that will weed out the best players. [Narrator] That’s Eileen Narcotta-Welp, a soccer scholar at the
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. There are a few reasons, she says, why women’s soccer has
become so popular in the US. And one of them is Title IX, which legislators passed in 1972. It prohibits federally funded
educational institutions from discriminating on the basis of sex. And that applies to high-school and college athletic programs. Narcotta-Welp: They said,
“Listen, you have to add women’s programs, you have to be able to demonstrate that you are at least providing opportunities for women. So you just saw an explosion
of different sports. [Narrator] Especially soccer. In large part, Narcotta-Welp: Because you can carry such a large number of
women on those teams. [Narrator] It was simple math: By starting a women’s soccer team, schools could easily iron
out gender discrepancies in their athletic programs. But it wasn’t just Title IX that pushed women’s soccer
into the American mainstream and onto the world stage. It was also victory.
Two victories, actually. In 1991, the US national women’s team won the World Cup, the first
Women’s World Cup in history. And shortly after, major
brands like Nike and Umbro sponsored some of its players, cementing them as American icons. Then there was the World Cup of 1999, when women’s soccer exploded. The final game against China is widely considered the biggest moment in US women’s sports ever. It went to penalty kicks, and Brandi Chastain scored the last goal, beating China 5 to 4. After that, it seemed like every American girl wanted to play soccer, which only increased the pool of talent. But the team’s success isn’t
just about the popularity of women’s soccer in America. It’s also about the suppression
of the sport abroad. England, for example, essentially banned women’s soccer from 1921 to 1971, Germany did the same from 1955 to 1970, and so did Brazil from 1941 to 1981. These countries and many others claimed that soccer was
simply not a woman’s sport. So for a long time there
were hardly any teams abroad, and that’s true even in more modern times. In 2006, for example,
there were about 3,000,000 registered youth female players worldwide, and more than half of them were in the US. And even today, Narcotta-Welp: Soccer
really is only defined as a female sport in the United States. Everywhere else, it is a male sport. [Narrator] Taken altogether, that’s why the US women’s soccer team is so good, but other countries
might now be catching up. At least if there’s
anything to this graph. It shows what’s called
the Soccer Power Index, which is an estimate of
a team’s skill level. The US is in first, but France, Germany, and a handful of other
countries are now close behind. And that’s largely thanks
to a sharp increase in the number of players in Europe, and to money. From 2012 to 2017, for example,
European soccer associations more than doubled their
spending on women’s teams, from about 50,000,000 euros
to nearly 112,000,000. And with more money, Narcotta-Welp: You might have
access to better trainers, to better fitness instructors, to strength coaches, to maybe even start specializing
particular coaching areas. [Narrator] Now whether that
translates to victories is another question. At least for now, the US is one of the favored teams to win the World Cup in 2019. Take it from the expert: Narcotta-Welp: I wouldn’t put it past them to continue to remain at
the top of women’s soccer for the foreseeable future.

Antonio Breitenberg

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