Even as World Champs, US Soccer Doesn’t Care About the Women’s Team

Even in the middle of a forest fire, the USWNT still brought home the cup.

Even in the middle of a forest fire, the USWNT still brought home the cup.

USWNT returned home to a massive rally in LA and a ticker tape parade in NYC. You could hear Freddy Mercury singing for weeks. But the honeymoon was short lived.

The warmth of summer is but a memory as we head into the dead of winter. Apparently that short memory fits the mindset of U.S. Soccer. Last night, the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) took the unprecedented step to cancel a match due to poor field conditions.

If you recall, the USWNT, led by retiring bad ass Abby Wambach, attempted to have the 2015 World Cup moved off turf fields to grass. Their claim was that turf was a subpar playing surface and the men’s teams would never have to play on turf. They lost that battle, but did win the third World Cup trophy for the USA.

USWNT returned home to a massive rally in LA and a ticker tape parade in NYC. You could hear Freddy Mercury singing for weeks. But the honeymoon was short lived.

Just weeks later, Alex Morgan, tweeted her displeasure at the National Women’s Soccer League continuing to book the teams at subpar hotels –  including one with bed bugs. Morgan was the face of the World Cup team and attracts large crowds at matches. During the 2014 season, my family paid extra to sit on the field so our daughter could get a closer look at her hero and an autograph after the match. She is an All-Star player worthy of the comforts of every other marquee player who happens to be a dude.

In their decision to cancel Sunday night’s match in Hawaii, the USWNT explained the field conditions:

On Friday at practice, we lost a teammate, Megan Rapinoe, to an ACL injury. Megan’s injury took place while playing on a subpar training field. The grass on the training pitch itself was in bad shape. All along the pitch, sewer plates and plastic coverings were laying on the sidelines.

It wasn’t until we got to Aloha Stadium the next day — the day before the match against Trinidad and Tobago — that we finally saw, for the first time, how bad the stadium’s field truly was. The conditions were such that our coach shortened practice to a brief 30-minute training session so we wouldn’t risk injury before the game. There were sharp rocks ingrained all over the field. They were everywhere. The artificial turf was actually pulling up out of the ground, and the turf itself was both low-grade and aging. This was a playing surface that looked like it hadn’t been replaced in years.

After voicing their concerns to US Soccer, the field was indeed found to be unsafe and irreparable for the match. What really gets my goat is that normally, ahem, when the men play, US Soccer will scout the field weeks ahead of time in order to ensure a safe playing surface. US Soccer did NOT do this for the women’s team, and this led to the unwelcome surprise of a crappy field.

Alex Morgan continues to be the most visible US Soccer player, man or woman, and will need to continue to speak out about the inequality that women’s soccer play under. But as fans, we will need to step up our game too.

Next week the one of greatest players to play soccer, Abby Wambach, will retire. I adore everything about this woman and the way she plays the game. I even considered a quick trip to NOLA to watch her final match. But now I am happy that I did not invest that money into a plane ticket, hotel and ticket to the match. Why should I continue to pay for a US Soccer match that does not respect the women on the field? To support a system that my daughter aspires to join one day?

Yet at the same time, if we do not go out and support the players, will that signal to US Soccer and FIFA that fans do not want to spend on the team? Capitalism sucks, yo. Economic power can only go so far. As we gear up for the Olympics and the next wave of “Go, girl!” sports stories, we need to assess how we support women’s sports while also holding the powers that be accountable.

Veronica Arreola writes the blog Viva la Feminista, where she tries to navigate and understand the intersection between feminism, motherhood and her Latinidad. You can follow her on Twitter @veronicaeye. To contact Veronica for an interview or to book her as a speaker, she can be reached at veronica.arreola@gmail.com.

Photo credit: Veronica Arreola. Don’t worry, her camera was not smudged. The World Cup Final took place during a forest fire, so that is smoke you see!

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