We all know ‘Merica is the greatest country in the world. However, in the world’s most important sport, we really aren’t seen that way. Do people in Europe really care how dominant we are at sports that are only popular in America like football, basketball, and baseball? (crap, we don’t even have baseball thanks to Central America).
In so-called “international sports” we’re mediocre at best. There hasn’t been a viable American tennis player since Andy Roddick, and don’t you dare mention Serena WIlliams because she is not from the planet Earth. Ever since Tiger Wood’s collapse, the best golfer in the world has been Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland. But there’s really no question that futbol (soccer, I’m trying to sound cultured) is the most important sport in the world. And until guys like Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul grow up and decide to play futbol instead of basketball, I have a hard time seeing the American men winning a World Cup.
But, thanks to one team, America can reclaim its position as king (queen in this case) of the world. Here’s 3 reasons why you should be HYPED to watch our ladies take on the world the next few weeks.
1. America is the Best
The USWNT (United States Women’s National Team) might just be the greatest team in any sport in the world. There are many things that make this team unique, but they may be the only American team that is a member of the national team first before their professional team. There have been several attempts to launch a female professional soccer league in the United States, most of which have been unsuccessful. The members of the USWNT actually have their salaries subsidized by the team, and as such their true allegiance lies to their country.
The ladies play 25 or more matches sporting the red, white & blue each year, and 80 or more days training and traveling with their US teammates, which leads to an unparalleled camaraderie. Every team in the history of teams has used the “my teammates are like family” cliche, but something about this group makes it almost believable.
The other thing that I’m impressed by is their culture. Started by Mia Hamm and passed down through Abby Wambach, the hard work but more importantly the singularity in focus is incredible. Their drive to succeed is what has kept the United States as the premier program in the world despite the vast improvement in the quality of international teams.
The crazy thing is that the United States is currently ranked #2 in the FIFA World Rankings, tied for their lowest ever. But make no mistake, as this article from deadspin states:
Again, let’s not overcomplicate this. The United States should win the 2015 Women’s World Cup. The United States are favored to win the 2015 Women’s World Cup. The United States will probably win the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
So whether you like soccer or not, you can get behind America, can’t you? Our main competition are the French, Germans, Japanese, and Brazilians, and three out of those four we’ve been in wars against so it shouldn’t be too hard to cheer just off sheer patriotism. WOO, ‘Merica!
2. Amazing Storylines
The other thing that makes this World Cup must-watch television is that we (I say “we” to describe the USWNT because at this point I’m already wearing only my red-white-blue boxers and a camoflauge bandana, cuz ‘Merica) are far from being locks to win the championship.
There are many compelling story lines leading up to the World Cup, and all of them will not only produce incredible drama, but also determine the success of the team (and by extension, the nation).
Here’s a short list of the Top 5 Storylines headed into the World Cup:
A. Artificial Turf, because FIFA Sucks
Are you really surprised that FIFA would be conducting highly controversial actions that doesn’t benefit the athletes?
For the first time ever, a World Cup is being played on artificial turf instead of natural grass. This makes the game faster, sure, but also will lead to a huge amount of turf burns as well as an increased chance of fatigue and injury. U.S. Captain Abby Wambach says “there isn’t one player in the world that would prefer playing on an artificial surface.” A petition surfaced that was signed by many of the teams that would be competing, but there wasn’t an adequate amount of time to change anything before the competition began.
Wambach’s very vocal outrage has stemmed from her belief that the women’s World Cup is being used as a guinea pig to test out the surface for use in men’s play, and to be honest that’s the best possible explanation.
This is unquestionably the story heading into the tournament, and I think it will have an effect on how the games are played. It may perhaps give the US an advantage since they are the most athletic team, but it could also level the playing field thanks to the game being played at a more sloppy pace.
Let’s just hope and pray that none of our girl’s get hurt during the course of the tournament. And come on FIFA, get your act together.
B. Abby Wambach’s Last Ride
Abby Wambach has the most international goals of any soccer (futbol, or whatever) player ever, man or woman. There’s really no way to describe her other than she’s just a total badass. She is the last carry-over from the Mia Hamm generation, a woman who has to be one of the most influential athletes of all time in any sport. And what’s more hilarious is that Brandi Chastain is actually more well known for this photograph.
Not gonna lie, my whole life I’ve thought that photograph was of Mia Hamm….ehhemm moving on. What is more significant about this iconic photograph is that this is actually the last time the USWNT won the World Cup. Most casual fans are surprised to hear this, but the US lost 3-0 in the semifinals to Germany in 2003, and 4-0 in the semifinals to Brazil in 2007 before getting to the final in 2011 before losing a late lead to Japan and losing in penalty kicks.
While the US has won three gold medals in the Olympics (’04, ’08, ’12) in that span, the great Abby Wambach has never won a World Cup, and has gone on record to say that this will be her last, so that’s definitely one of the biggest story lines. Her impact on the game and the world is enormous, and was on TIME Magazine’s “Top 100 Most Influential People on the Planet” list.
And even at age 35, Wambach is arguably the best forward on the team, and probably still one of the top 5 best female athletes on Earth. Her header has become as iconic of a signature move as a Kareem skyhook or an MJ fadeaway, and arguably more effective.
Think Derek Jeter, think David Robinson, think of all of the great captains in the history of sports. Wambach has earned a spot among them, and deserves a World Cup. And it’s needless to say that she will be a determining factor in whether that happens.
C. Alex Morgan’s Health
What has been the USWNT’s greatest strength is in having an alpha, an unquestioned leader. It started with Hamm, then came Wambach, and now the heir-apparent is obvious: Alex Morgan. And as risque and threatening of a character as the brash Wambach is (openly homosexual and very outspoken in all of her opinions, including her open hatred for now-former FIFA president Sepp Blatter), Morgan appears very vanilla. She’s 25 years old, insanely talented, and as marketable as can be, already gracing the pages of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and every other major publication.
The only thing that could stop America’s new superstar would be of course herself. She missed all three of the team’s warm up matches with a bone bruise in her left knee, and questions swarm as to what effect she will play as the tournament progresses. She was in training in Canada on Friday as the team got ready for it’s opening match against Australia, and from reports she appeared agile.
Alex Morgan might be the best scorer on the US team in this tournament if she’s healthy, but making sure she’s able to play at 100% and without minutes restrictions is key. Not to mention the pounding that her knee could take while running on turf, which is placed over concrete, over the course of the event.
D. Sydney Leroux’s Homecoming
Seriously, take the time out to go watch this ESPN W feature on Sydney Leroux. Do it. I’ll wait.
The last time that the US played Canada on Canadian soil, the fans booed Syd the Kid every time she got the ball. When she scored, this was her response (quote from that ESPN W article)
Almost on instinct, Leroux flashes the U.S. crest on her jersey to the angry wall of Canadian spectators who are booing louder still, flipping her off — some with both hands — and calling her a f–ing c–t. Seemingly unrattled, and with a cue from Wambach, she puts a finger to her lips as if to quiet the fans who once called her their own. “You know what? You can have her,” says a Canadian Sportsnet commentator. “That’s way too American for me. You know what she is? … Classless.”
Wow, George Washington himself is smiling his wooden smile down from wherever he is right now.
Admit it, we all love it when games get chippy. It makes them so much more interesting, so much more entertaining. It causes athletes to take their games to another level, it adds extra importance and pride to the stakes. If the United States plays Canada in the elimination rounds, that is must-watch TV. Think about the stakes! The last time they met in a major tournament, it was the semi-final of the 2012 Olympics and Alex Morgan scored a header goal in the 120th minute to put the US through. Seriously you can’t script a story better than this.
Really hoping this happens, but even if it doesn’t, I’m sure any Canadians who are at the USWNT matches will be hostile towards Leroux, and the whole US team, considering at the last world cup we beat them in what has to be the greatest futbol match of all time. Seriously, sporting events CANNOT get better than that game was.
E. Minutes Distribution
If all goes according to plan, meaning the USWNT are hosting World Cup gold on July 5th (one day after international ‘Merica day, or something like that), that means the team will have played seven games in twenty-eight days. That’s 630 minutes of play not counting quite a bit of stoppage time and any possible overtime periods. A lot of pressure is on coach Jill Ellis to make the right decisions in how she distributes the minutes in this tournament.
Let me just say this. I’ve never understood nor agreed with the fact that we have to get coaches from other countries to coach our national teams (Jurgen Klinsmann is awesome, he’s also German, and Ellis is British). Ok fine, sure, we want to get the best coach possible in order to win. But it sure feels like we’re already losing when the person leading us isn’t one of us. I mean, sure Hitler you were a good strategist how would you like to lead the Allied Forces on the Pacific Front?? I digress.
The other tough thing to decide is which forwards are going to be out there, for how much time, and in what combinations. Wambach, Morgan, and Leroux are all bonafide studs, and Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez could most likely start and be stars on most teams in the world. At all positions the team is stacked, and according to the deadspin article I previously mentioned, their biggest problem could be that they are TOO stacked. So how Ellis divvies up the minutes is going to crucial.
3. The Girls are Really Attractive
Finally, and possibly most importantly, the girls on the USWNT are really hot. It’s not really breaking news that a high percentage of sports television viewers are male. And let’s be honest boys, you didn’t go to your high school’s girls volleyball matches because you have a burning passion for volleyball.
It’s true that many female soccer players in the United States and elsewhere are going to be watching the games because of the high level of competition, and I really hope that what I have written previously in this article has convinced you that the action is going to be exciting and dramatic, but there’s no shame in appreciating!
I’m not putting a link here, so you all can google the Alex Morgan SI Swimsuit gallery on your own (ya nasties). But while Morgan is like that smoking hot girlfriend you would bring home to meet your parents, Sydney Leroux is equally hot in a rebellious, sneak out at night sort of way. There may be some caution flags attached to Hope Solo, but she’s still eye candy as well. And there’s plenty of under-appreciated assets like Julie Johnston and Kelley O’Hara.
So for the love of America, Futbol, and beautiful women, you need to watch the 2015 World Cup.