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Soccer is the sport that has the power to unite the United States

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Is the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team “America’s Team”? As the team prepares for its possible third World Cup title today, the increased viewership and buzz after the team’s win over Germany has made them media darlings.  It also highlights how soccer, a “foreign” sport, can unite this country in a way no other sport can.

There are very few high-profile sports in the United States where the 318 million population can unite to support a single cause or, in this case, a single team. The most popular sport, American football, doesn’t have a national team. Neither does America’s pastime, baseball. Basketball and hockey have a US Olympics team, but both only raise passing interest every four years.

Not only is the US Women’s National soccer team more accessible, but they’re more representative of the United States. For example, in light of the recent Supreme Court decision, two of the team’s biggest stars (Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe) have been public proponents and examples for gay marriage and equality.

The entire U.S. women’s roster represents different parts of the country and different lifestyles: single, married, and parent.  Players have returned to the roster after taking time away to have kids and struggle with balancing parenting and career.

Head Coach Jill Ellis was born in England but has lived in and now resides in the U.S.  Rising star Sydney Leroux was born and raised in Canada to a Canadian mother but wanted to follow her biological father’s path and represent the United States.  She has been open about her struggles growing up as a biracial player and dealing with her dual nationalities.

In many ways, they represent the new America.

Even beyond the US Women’s National Team, soccer has been a unifying force in this country once you get past the usual rhetoric.  Across the country, almost every child at some point growing up has played soccer, regardless of location or income or race.  While soccer fans in the past have tended to be liberal politically, “soccer moms” for a long time were the swing voters courted by politicians in every election.  And more than any other national team, the moments given to us by the U.S. Soccer teams are memorable even to non-fans: just ask where people were for “GO GO USA!” in 2010 or Brandi Chastain’s sports bra.

Every few years, the country can rally around the men’s and women’s teams because even non-soccer fans can understand and relate to the players, more than any other team.  And as the country progresses politically and culturally, the soccer culture becomes a better fit.  One of the things that struck me about Nathan Nipper’s recent book is that as someone more politically conservative, he has no issue integrating into MLS fan culture.  At the same time, MLS fans have been the most welcoming and inclusive of any sport especially to LGBT fans.

As we hopefully celebrate another U.S. World Cup victory on Independence Day weekend, it is that “foreign” sport that may best unify this diverse country in the years ahead.

 

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Jasinho

    July 6, 2015 at 10:04 am

    How about some of us who happen to be American watch soccer because of the global nature of the game.

    I think both US teams and their supporters are trying to hard to be like everyone else rather rapidly instead of letting the game come to them. Unless and until Americans Football is second to Football in the U.S. They would still be not much more than pretenders.

    Disclosure – I didn’t watch any of the WWC matches simply because I’d rather watch the Copa America.

  2. NaBUru38

    July 6, 2015 at 6:34 am

    Basketball and ice hockey also have World Championships, but foe some reason Americans dont seem interedted in them. Moreover, several top NBA and NHL players skip the tournament.

  3. gabriel fleming

    July 6, 2015 at 12:38 am

    Few comments: 1) Hats off to FOX, Loved all the girls, informative/attractive and most importantly likable, criticisms abound as expected, they have risen above. 2) Color bias-c’mon in this day/age-not an issue at least not in N.America, lastly LBGT have crossed major hurdles in recent times, Megan/Abby surely feel the urge to further cause and I wish them well, Fox obtained these rights in order to assist viability for FS1/FS2….goals attained and then some

  4. Smokey Bacon

    July 5, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Reading these comments seems like there is a long way to go.

    Rather than focus on the USA, just be happy that football once again unites the world at least for a few weeks. For all its faults, FIFAs world cups are terrific entertainment.

    And hats off the Fox too. Their coverage has been a pleasant surprise.

  5. Rick Patel

    July 5, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Go, Team Japan! Put a whipping on that cheesy, cheating U.S. team.

    • jtm371

      July 5, 2015 at 5:20 pm

      How did they cheat? oh yeah BEAT japan! 🙂

  6. Jason

    July 5, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Enough with the crap about LGBT. It is not a civil right not to be equated with racial civil rights which is a just cause. It is a behavior. A sinful behavior that is. There is a very very very large segment of society that is still civilized that will never accept homosexuality. It has been used by political hacks as a means for power and nothing else. The media overstates the number of homosexuals out there too.

    • Jason

      July 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      And to those fans at the soccer games who fly their cute rainbow flags Stop throwing out there in my face on the TV screens and in the stands and just let me watch the match on the football pitch.

  7. toby

    July 5, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Maybe USA female has to work harder to be more inclusive. It is very white and suburban compared to the men’s team.

    • jtm371

      July 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Funny nobody says that when they talk about the NBA or NFL. How about the best damn players make the team.

      • Flyvanescence

        July 5, 2015 at 5:26 pm

        Thank you. Maybe someday we will stop looking at and classifying people by the colour of ones skin and treat everybody as a human being and a person.

        “One world, we get to share it”

    • Jason

      July 5, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      What a stupid racist comment that is.

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