Party Like It’s 1999

I can still close my eyes and envision Brandi Chastain’s jersey twirling around her head as her and her United States soccer team counterparts celebrated their second women’s world cup victory. It was as exciting as it was meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Over 90 thousand fans, a world record for a female sporting event, witnessed the game live, which was decided by penalty kicks. The script was so perfect it was hard to believe you weren’t witnessing a movie. There was talk, as there always is after such a historic event, that the sport of soccer would grow in the United States and eventually be viewed as a major sport in America’s hierarchy. Needless to say, that is not the case. Today the women’s national team is in a position to fail to qualify for the 2011 world cup, hosted by Germany, if they don’t win a playoff home and home match-up with Italy. The popularity that soccer had in 1999 is gone for the red, white and blue, and it seems to have been picked up by multiple other countries. Women’s participation in countries like Mexico, China, and Germany (the winner of the last two world cups) has risen exponentially while the statistics in America were unable to see a substantial increase. Other countries are more competitive these days, and the United States is seemingly unable to continue their dominance upon the pitch.

Is it the fact that other countries are catching up, or is our countries team going backwards? Soccer isn’t just a game to many other countries of the world. It is the most popular event and most wide-ranging sport to play in nearly every other region. The fact that America was able to dominate it for a few years was a testament to the possibilities that women have to explore their sporting interests in our society and nothing more. The understanding that other countries would eventually catch up when their women were given the opportunity was a forgone conclusion.

The United States made waves, albeit small ones, by losing to Mexico and consequently needing a win against Costa Rica in an effort at securing third place in their CONCACAF group and force the Italy playoff. The beating they laid on Costa Rica, a 3-0 win that could have been bigger, was touted as a bounce-back win for the team, and many saw it as the United States finally flexing their muscle. Clearly, many fans don’t pay close attention. The US team has never lost to Costa Rica in seven matches. In fact, the Costa Ricans have never actually scored a goal against the US. Winning that match-up was about as easy as an NFL franchise; yes even the Buffalo Bills, beating a team from the CFL (Canadian Football League). Ultimately, people are quick to believe that the women’s soccer team can once again rule the soccer landscape like it previously did, but the environment has changed and America is busy scrambling for a road map.

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