The FIFA Women’s World Cup is upon us! The beautiful game’s biggest tournament is well under way and there’s already been some entertaining matches, regardless of which country you support.
We here at Ride of the Valkyries are proud in doing the best we can to provide coverage of your favorite NWSL team. We are also proud to witness the increased engagement on social media from the start of the tournament in France. And we want to see that continue on well after the tournament winds down and a champion is crowned.
As the audience for women’s soccer gets bigger, it’s always good to remind everyone that this party doesn’t just come every four years.
The writers of Ride of Valkyries have collaborated on this piece to remind everyone that women’s soccer just doesn’t exist every four years. It happens every year here and in eight other regions, and it’s never too late to get in on the party.
Attending a soccer match is like watching a perfectly orchestrated symphony. The movement of the ball creates a melody you never want to end — that is, until you hit the crescendo of the crowd after your side buries the game-winning goal. Then, we all join in for the chorus, shouting at the top of our lungs as our heroes write their next masterpiece.
Like most musical endeavors, symphonies are best experienced in person.
Think back to your favorite live soccer matches. Certainly, the performance on the field played a big role. But I imagine the atmosphere was a significant factor. The tifo. The chants. The flags. The shouts that echoed in the corner when a controversial play occurred. The roar of the crowd. The joyous celebrations.
The 2019 World Cup has provided us with endless mini-symphonies, and the world is tuning in. You’re probably one of the millions watching. And we’re only just emerging from the group stage! The fun has just begun.
But this isn’t a once-every-four-years party. As Steve and Jacob share so eloquently below, we have the amazing opportunity to witness stars of this caliber week in and week out right here at home. The only thing that would make it even better? If others joined us in crafting our song together.
This region rarely hosts a U.S. women’s national team match. But that’s not a problem — we get to witness a team every summer that could give the U.S. a run for their money. Below, you’ll read about the amazing stars who shine for Reign FC, so I won’t focus on that.
This is my open invitation to be part of the symphony — to contribute in such a meaningful way to the songs we write at Cheney Stadium. We are nearing a tipping point in women’s soccer — we have the chance to propel it into the future, choosing to give these athletes the investment they deserve. Let’s not lose that in our city. Grab a friend. Hop on that Rally Bus. Take the energy harnessed from the World Cup and join us in Tacoma. These players deserve it. And you deserve to be a part of their magical symphony of soccer.
The World Cup might come only once every four years, but every week in the NWSL you can see thrilling matchups pitting international superstars against one another. There are no massive disparities with one or two powerhouse teams and a bunch of minnows — each match is competitive and presents a legitimate challenge for the players. It’s why so many foreign players come to the league to test themselves and refine their game.
There are nearly five-dozen NWSL players representing 11 countries in the World Cup (over a quarter of the league!), and yet more players who formerly played in the league are there, representing even more countries. But there are many more excellent players who toil in the NWSL without the opportunity to bask in the spotlight of a major tournament. A lot of those players are on par with the ones you’ve seen in France, if not better, and if not for some happenstance of where they were born they would undoubtedly be getting mentioned in the same breath as the Kim Littles, Megan Rapinoes and Sam Kerrs of the world.
The US player pool is so deep that someone like Reign FC’s Lauren Barnes can be a former league defender of the year and not get more than a passing glance from the national team. If Chicago were its own country, their squad would give the USWNT a run for its money. Jess Fishlock would start for nearly every country at this year’s World Cup, but UEFA qualifying is brutal and Wales missed out on the tournament. If you’re not watching the NWSL, you’re missing out on these incredible players.
The future of the USWNT and many other national teams is being developed right now on the fields of this league. Standout NWSL play is what earned Allie Long, Adrianna Franch and Jess McDonald their tickets to France. Plenty of current national team players will be retiring in the next few years, and in their place is a wealth of talent waiting in the wings, playing in exciting and competitive league matches week in and week out.
If the end of the World Cup has you pining for more top-notch international soccer and wistfully waiting for next year’s Olympics or the 2023 World Cup, you only need to look down the road to find a great game this weekend.
Yes, the National Women’s Soccer League is still very young and has a long way to go to get to where men’s Major League Soccer currently is. To get there, we have to start caring about it now, as we watch the World Cup over breakfast or lunch. If you’re starting your day off watching national teams play for the top prize in France, you can damn sure end your day in the stands of a NWSL match, if you have access to one.
This is the league where the United States Women’s National Team plays week in, week out. A lot of other top international talents call NWSL home because the word of mouth has been spreading among players that if they want to elevate their talent, this is the place to be. Of course not every single match will fit the subjective definition of “the beautiful game.” The same thing can be said about a lot of men’s matches, regardless of the league and their supposed superiority in quality. The same can be said about the quality of officiating and the frustration is understandable, but guess what — it happens in the men’s game too! There’s no such thing as a “perfect” soccer league, regardless of gender.
However, what is close to perfection is when Megan Rapinoe sends in a free kick that curls over a wall to light up the back of the net, and she celebrates it with all the swag a badass would. It’s Jess Fishlock coming in like a wrecking ball to win possession and run box to box with the energy of a supernova. You look beyond what is available here locally, and you have Lindsey Horan, Sam Kerr, and Becky Sauerbrunn. These are world class talents that you can see on a weekly basis if you just make the effort.
The likes of Rapinoe and Fishlock are still very much in the now of taking names and kicking asses, though they know they can’t be doing this forever. Give them your attention, your respect, and your time in the stands now so that when that day comes and they hang up their boots, we will talk about their legacies as being some of the most important athletes the Puget Sound region ever had — because that is who they are.
Women’s soccer is every year and we have to do a better job of making it part of our consciousness the way we have with the men’s game. The leagues and clubs have to do their part, of course in promoting themselves better, but we the people can damn sure do our part to push for more and better promotion. The way we think and talk about the men’s game on the days between matches, read anything and everything written, spoken, broadcast about them — we need to do that for the women’s game. If we change the way we think and pay more attention to the league now as the World Cup continues on and well after it’s completed, then maybe people with money will invest now, next year, and beyond.
Think of it this way: 2023 will be the tenth season of NWSL. If we get there, the league will have tripled the length of previous women’s pro soccer leagues in the US. They all folded after the third year because, frankly, people stopped caring. Despite all of the hiccups that go on with the league today, those that have been following it are cautiously optimistic that we will get to 2023 with the NWSL intact. At that point, we will be debating about who would make a NWSL All-Decade Team. Just think about that for a moment.
NWSL All-Decade Team.
We will be looking back at that inaugural 2013 season, the trailblazers that started things off, and all the amazing talent that played during that span. Some are names you may have heard of, but a whole lot more made their names through playing in this league. I personally get chills at that incredibly hard task of coming up with eleven players that were the epitome of that first decade of the NWSL. And think of the legacy those players will have made to fans, media, and most importantly those chasing the dream to become a professional soccer player. Think of that player that saw a Jess Fishlock, a Christine Sinclair, a Kim Little, a Steph Catley in that first decade and said, “I am going to be that player of the next generation.”
58 players from 11 countries in this year’s World Cup play in the NWSL. 2023 is also the next edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. If we get more people to start paying attention now, just imagine how many players at that tournament could also be calling NWSL their home before, during, and after that tournament.
If you live in a NWSL city or region and are able to get out to a match, perhaps now as the World Cup is going on and after the tournament is over, make the effort. If you only went to one match out of the year, try and make it two or three. And beyond that, read articles about NWSL teams and their players. Listen to podcasts that cover the women’s game. That hype video about a men’s club team announcing a new signing or unveiling a new shirt that you’ll watch ten times over and tweet about? Do the same for the women’s game if it’s available.
In 2015 after the United States won the World Cup in Canada, the league and clubs saw a bump in attendance. It’s 2019 and we should not be settling for just a bump. We should be wanting, perhaps demanding, that the entire sea level rise, because despite what the screaming void wants you to think, women’s soccer isn’t something that just pops up every four years.
It’s here. Every year. Right in front of you.
TL;DR? Just watch Grant Wahl’s video about the call to action for everyone, all of us, to give a damn about the NWSL now and well after the World Cup.