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  1. Sid
    Sid July 21, 2011 at 8:00 pm |

    If memory serves, there was this same initial post-WC surge interest in women’s soccer leading to the WUSA formation and fairly decent attendance; I watched a few early Freedom games. But I think the lack of media coverage and bad marketing really did them in. And even now, after 15 years the MLS is really struggling; its better than it was, but I’m just skeptical of any kind of mass market for soccer here yet. Rising TV ratings for soccer games and CL finals on major networks are great, but there still needs to be far greater nurturing of soccer culture/athletes. It hasn’t helped that the Beckham experiment has been a complete failure, and I’m fairly sure most New Yorkers couldn’t tell Thierry Henry from a random Urban Outfitters model.

    I’m kind of afraid this women’s world cup set the bar extremely high for women’s soccer. Nearly all of the games in the knockout round were riveting dramas; I’m not sure any world cup men’s or women’s could match it in terms of competitiveness. I think the WPS will be hard-pressed to maintain that quality.

    I think one thing Sunil Gulati and the USSF have to prioritize is minority recruitment and retention (for both men and women, but especially for the development of interest in the women’s game). There are tons of minorities who come from soccer-entrenched cultures whose women could become valuable contributors and whose families could be easily counted on support; and obviously many women who come from minorities with little soccer exposure but who possess world-class athleticism and/or other traits which could make the team even better.

    In any case, I’m optimistic, and hope DC gets back a franchise.

    Also, have a friend who played for the NYU men’s side who graduated several years ago, go Bobcats!

  2. Tony
    Tony July 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm |

    Great post. I think USians just like to see it whenever our country is dominating the world in something. And since soccer is a much more international game than football, baseball or basketball, and lots of countries have developed their womens’ teams strongly over the past decade, it’s easy to overlook that the US is a traditional superpower in womens’ soccer. The USWNT is in a sweet spot where their league is international enough but not so strong than the US can’t rise to the top consistently. It provides for great drama. And as one columnist pointed out, USians actually spend more time playing soccer than they do playing more traditionally ‘American’ sports.

    But it is such an international game. Looking at it from that perspective, my heart goes out to the Iranian players in particular, who never even got the chance to prove themselves. Womens’ soccer in Iran is not being killed by lack of interest but by the fact that displaying interest in it is a political crime:

    A female sports photojournalist who had campaigned for Iranian women to be allowed to attend men’s soccer games is missing amid reports she has been taken into custody in Tehran, RFE/RL’s Radio Farda reports.

    Maryam Majd, 24, was supposed to go to Duesseldorf on June 17 to prepare for the women’s soccer World Cup in Germany… [Majd] was about to get on the flight, but the airline has since confirmed she never boarded.

    “four men, most likely from the Intelligence Ministry, went to Majd’s father’s house on June 16 and arrested her after searching her room.”

    Womens’ soccer, sadly, is political. The right of women to be athletic, to participate in world class competitive sports, is political too (sadly). Let’s not forget it.

  3. m
    m July 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm |

    Women’s soccer less fun to watch?!

    The talent is fantastic and they aren’t diving around like they do in men’s. Pretty good I’d say…

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  5. Glauke
    Glauke July 22, 2011 at 4:43 am |

    I will :) Mostly watching, though. Women’s soccer is the fastest growing sport over here in Holland, so I have hopes for the future…

  6. saurus
    saurus July 22, 2011 at 7:30 am |

    One thing about women’s soccer is that they seem to simulate (pretend or exaggerate injury) on the field much, much less than men’s soccer. So the flow of the game is more interesting to me, because it doesn’t stop every two seconds so that you can watch some guy roll around on the ground in exquisite agony like he was shot and then immediately get up and jog happily back into the game.

  7. titleixbaby
    titleixbaby July 22, 2011 at 7:42 am |

    One of the reasons women’s soccer doesn’t seem as “exciting” on television is that the networks carrying the games are using far fewer cameras than they do for a men’s match.

  8. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin July 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm |

    I think sometimes that we can’t always plan for what will make a sport or subject huge. There’s a certain amount of chaos theory present, much like a viral video. But this is a step in the right direction.

    Soccer runs contrary to lots of typically American sports because it’s low-scoring. Most people are indebted to high scoring sports like football and basketball, and even though baseball is a relatively low scoring sports, a typical soccer score would be often unusual.

  9. Susie
    Susie July 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm |

    Great Post! I have been a fan for years and will continue to be. I am happy to see heartfelt posts from fans of the game over theoretical analysis of why people may not be watching. I posted in my blog before the tournament began as well.. just for fun!

  10. ch
    ch July 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm |

    @saurus and m, yeah, I love that there’s way less diving in the women’s game, and also, when a player accidentally trips or pushes someone from the other team (that is, not an on-purpose, yellow-card-level offense, just a “I was trying to get to the ball and so were you and I tripped you kind of thing), she often apologizes! I’ve never seen that in a men’s game, and it really improves the spirit of the game, even in a game as contentious and nail-biting as the final or the US-Brazil quarterfinal.

  11. DouglasG
    DouglasG July 22, 2011 at 11:56 pm |

    [Great post. I think USians just like to see it whenever our country is dominating the world in something.]

    Many do but personally I don’t – if anything, I enjoy events much more if US players lose early, but that’s mostly because the coverage is generally so skewed that I quickly get sick of how certain players are ridiculously overhyped.

  12. Fake Sigi
    Fake Sigi July 23, 2011 at 7:31 am |

    Kate, I’ve really enjoyed the last two posts. I’d love to see more posts about soccer here. Lots of issues to be unpacked in the game.

    For those interested in learning more about women’s soccer post-world cup, I suggest patronizing All White Kit by Jenna Pel and her crew, and Jennifer Doyle’s From a Left Wing. Pel in particular is hard working and very knowledgeable about the game. Yesterday AWK published a nice rundown of what’s going on in WPS right now.

    -FS

  13. Amy AuH2O
    Amy AuH2O July 23, 2011 at 10:17 am |

    As a soccer Mom (Kate’s actually) who finally figured out what offsides was after 20 years of watching, I’m loving seeing the sport become a tiny bit more mainstream. We owe a lot of that to Title IX, which gave opportunities to girls/women in competitive sports that previous generations (mine) got screwed out of. So for me it’s a good sign that people are debating over whether the team is being coddled for getting so far or scolded for choking because we’ve come very far to even elicit articles that dis the team (which is rude and uncalled for). And big ups to the team for not blaming Jesus for making them lose…

  14. shark fan
    shark fan July 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm |

    m:
    I talked to a friend who played Division I soccer in college, and she said something like “Women’s soccer just isn’t as fun to watch as men’s soccer. They’re not as talented and there isn’t a big enough difference between the college level of play and the professional level.”

    sounds like someone has a case of the sour grapes.

    i don’t think there are any problems with the quality at the international level, but i can’t speak to the club level (yet). in fact, there are a number of aspects that i find make women’s soccer more entertaining – a lack of flopping being a major one.

    not that the quality is an issue, but it only stands to get better (and more importantly, top quality in greater numbers) as long as the WPS takes advantage of the opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of the WWC. hopefully they’ve learned something from the WUSA, they’re already a leg up just by calling themselves the “WPS.”

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    Weekly Feminist Reader July 24, 2011 at 10:52 am |

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  16. StarCityFan
    StarCityFan July 25, 2011 at 9:30 am |

    Sid:
    If memory serves, there was this same initial post-WC surge interest in women’s soccer leading to the WUSA formation and fairly decent attendance; I watched a few early Freedom games.But I think the lack of media coverage and bad marketing really did them in.

    What did the WUSA in more than anything else was delusions of grandeur. They expected the same sort of response and spent accordingly. When they didn’t get it, they lost money by the bucketload, going through $100 million in a mere three seasons. If they’d had that amount of money but spent it the more frugal way WPS has been, they’d still be around.

  17. WookieMonster
    WookieMonster July 25, 2011 at 2:01 pm |

    StarCityFan: What did the WUSA in more than anything else was delusions of grandeur. They expected the same sort of response and spent accordingly. When they didn’t get it, they lost money by the bucketload, going through $100 million in a mere three seasons. If they’d had that amount of money but spent it the more frugal way WPS has been, they’d still be around.

    Yeah, what the WPS has going for it, is that it is a much more sustainable model now. It’s able to suffice on 2k fans per game as opposed to 20k. So that’s promising.

    @sharkfan–the level of play in the WPS, at least in my opinion, is at a much higher level than the World Cup, because instead of the best players on the world devided amongst 16 teams–they’re divided amongst six. The games are incredibly fast-paced, with good touches, and some just mind-bending goals (see USWNT stud Alex Morgan’s goal here (it was on ESPN this morning): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6WStEeJSvs).

    And the best part? No flopping!

    “Sky Who?”

  18. shark fan
    shark fan July 26, 2011 at 10:24 am |

    WookieMonster: @sharkfan–the level of play in the WPS, at least in my opinion, is at a much higher level than the World Cup, because instead of the best players on the world devided amongst 16 teams–they’re divided amongst six. The games are incredibly fast-paced, with good touches, and some just mind-bending goals (see USWNT stud Alex Morgan’s goal here (it was on ESPN this morning): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6WStEeJSvs).

    that’s a great point. i hadn’t thought about the talent being distributed between fewer teams. i was really impressed during the WWC, so i’d imagine the WPS is great. going to try to catch a game this weekend.

    and that alex morgan goal is ridiculous. she’s going to be in the spotlight for the next decade.

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