Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The WPS takes Center Stage

2009 marks the much overdue return of women's professional soccer to the United States, home of some of the best female soccer players to ever grace God's green earth. I know that this development will occure with little acknowledgement from many soccer pundits in the US (especially those with foreign accents), but World Soccer Wrap will not ignore the WPS, and will look forward to its success.

While there is much belabored debate as to where the MLS ranks in the legions of professional male leagues; what it will take for the USMNT to get a shot at true World Cup glory, and how well American male soccer players stack up to their counterparts around the world, there is little doubt that American female soccer players comprise some of the best, if not the best, women playing the beautiful game today. There are many reasons why American male soccer players have to fight hard for respect amongst their worldwide peers while American female soccer players easily stand proud and fierce amongst their worldwide peers, but Title IX, passed just over 35 years ago, is probably one of the biggest reasons behind the skill and quality of women's soccer in the U.S. For those who aren't familiar with it, Title IX forced educational institutions that receive federal monies to provide more equality and funding to female sports. And while the priviliged males whined needlessly over the shift of some money to women's sports, high schools and colleges that did not have male soccer teams developed and expanded their female soccer times, giving women new athletic opportunities at new levels. As athletic boys who grew up playing soccer grew older and shifted to school sponsored sports, which rarely offered soccer, athletic girls were able to continue to develop their soccer skills.

So, while the USMNT has struggled to find success on the international stage, the USWNT is currently ranked 1, has won the World Cup twice and placed third in 3 other competitions, has won three Olympic gold medals, and has fielded players known around the world. In 1999, the World Cup was held, with great success, in the US, and the USWNT won the cup in thrilling fashion before a capacity crowd at the Rose Bowl.

In 2000, the WUSA was founded but it ceased operations in 2003. Fans of the league and the women's game have expressed the belief that the league's problems on management that really didn't understand or know the sport.

Ten years after the USWNT won the World Cup to the delight of many young female soccer players around the country, the WPS will take on the challenge of creating the world's premier women's soccer league. In the years since the 1999 Rose Bowl victory, women's soccer has taken great strides around the rest of the world, so much so that one of the biggest names who will be taking the pitch this year, for the Los Angeles Sol, is not an American but the Brazilian sensation Mart. The 22 year old Marta did not have the benefit of Title IX (until 1975 it was illegal for women to play football in Brazil), and had to overcome entrenched genderism and chauvinism to become one of the best soccer players of her generation. Marta will be joined in the WPS by other great players such as Kristine Lilly, Heather Mitts, Leslie Osborne, Hope Solo, India Trotter, Aly Wagner, and Abby Wambach.

The time has come for the mainstream sports media, and much of the nonmainstream sports media, in the US to get over itself, to get over its own genderism and chauvinism, and give the WPS a fair, unbiased opportunity to succeed.

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