With their 2-0 win over the Netherlands in the final, the United States Women’s National Team took home the country’s fourth ever World Cup. Whilst the American men showed the still gaping gulf of talent separating them from the elite footballing nations like France and Spain, Jill Ellis’ squad dispatched of 7 opponents throughout the course of the tournament, only conceding 2 goals. The Americans earned the glory and did so while boasting the most swagger and personality of any other team. Even with MAGA nation actively rooting for the team’s failure, they came out on top.
The Americans heard their critics and listened to none. They were criticized for ‘excessive’ celebrations in their 13-0 trouncing of Thailand. Alex Morgan was criticized for her ‘offensive’ tea-sipping gesture after her game-winning goal against England in the semis. Megan Rapinoe was criticized for ‘overindulging’ in her celebrations, ‘promoting’ her own political agenda, and being all too arrogant for the ever-humble Piers Morgan, and for declining Trump’s invitation to the White House before even winning the tournament. It seemed like most were scrutinizing the team’s every move, cynically looking for any miniscule action or statement that could be blown out of proportion and held against the Americans. And yet they took home the biggest trophy in women’s football, proving why the USWNT continues to be the team to beat in women’s football.
And yet for a contingent of non-MAGA Americans, from soccer lovers to first timers to families, the success of the USWNT was a beautiful success. To watch a group of such powerful, self-assured women represent our country and bring home the glory that is almost expected of them at this point, was to oscillate between pure inspiration and pride. For enthusiastic onlookers, this was less a team of focused professionals than it was a relatable group of teammates with a secure bond who were fighting for each other and their supporters. There was no cowering behind the curtains for this team. They embraced the spotlight, made it their own, and most of all, showed that they could have fun. Undoubtedly, these players inspired countless kids to pursue a new dream, to go out and pick up a football and indulge in the beautiful game.
The USWNT were not only fighting against 23 other teams for World Cup glory, for they brought along with them the burden of demonstrating why they deserved equal pay as the men’s team. In March of this year, the team filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation to fight gender-based discrimination. This tournament proved to many that the USWNT deserves as much as they ask for, and more, leading to chants of “Equal Pay” ringing out from the fans in attendance of the final. FIFA president Gianni Infantino was greeted with jeers for his federation’s role in not addressing the pay disparity. The tournament slipped out of FIFA’s grasp, losing its expressed apolitical nature, and coming to resemble the federation’s lackluster commitment to the women’s game.
And back home, celebrities and politicians alike have expressed their newfound support for the USWNT, amplifying the pressure on USSF to resolve the issue. In between their champagne-laden, jubilant celebrations, the players have continued their campaign for equal pay. The team’s unapologetic attitude has won them few fans among a group of middle-aged white men who fear women with independence and power, but that likely isn’t on their minds. Megan Rapinoe carried on the fight at the team’s parade in New York City, eloquently explicating her values and championing more love, less hate. Her and her teammates have embraced responsibilities on many different levels, and it’s fair to say they fulfilled them wholly.
For the white male crowd, this victory is triggering. Sebastian Gorka alleged that the team was destroying “everything that is wholesome … in our Judeo-Christian civilization.” Piers Morgan labelled Rapinoe “unbearable,” Jesse Waters shamed her “unpatriotic behavior.” For them, it has been all too much to see these fearless women unwilling to cave under pressure.
For all these reasons, we should all be celebrating the USWNT. Now the time comes to help grow the women’s game, at home and abroad. With Budweiser on board as a long-run sponsor, hopefully more corporations will jump on the train. More eyes will always be better for growth. For those who grew attached to the roster of 23 Americans, here is a link to a graphic that will let you keep track of your favorite players once they return to their respective NWSL teams.
By: Brandon Duran
Photo: Gabriel Fraga