Why is the U.S. doing well in women’s soccer?

Some American women’s soccer players are in the news lately. They hate Donald Trump and are winning matches against Europeans.

The U.S. has never won a men’s World Cup (our dismal record).

Why is the women’s team able to prevail over other countries?

[Also, if the teams are drawn from citizens of the respective countries, shouldn’t the populous countries such as China, India, and the U.S. have a huge advantage? Why would the Netherlands or Sweden have a chance?]

Finally, what stops a country from sending in what had been their “men’s team” and saying “all of these players now identify as ‘women'”? How competitive would the 20th place men’s team be against the top women’s team? Has there ever been a soccer equivalent to the various tennis battles of the sexes? (a Chinese female star prevailed over Novak Djokovic in one of the last three matches)

Related:

  • a post quotingThe Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq: “He was starting to get pissed off about the world’s stupid obsession with Brazil. What was so great about Brazil? As far as he knew, Brazil was a shithole full of morons obsessed with soccer and Formula One.”

13 thoughts on “Why is the U.S. doing well in women’s soccer?

  1. We know how the US Men’s team would do if they identified as women, because the under-15 boys teams regularly beat women’s national teams.

    FC Dallas U-15 Boy Academy beat US Women’s National Team 5-2
    https://www.cbssports.com/soccer/news/a-dallas-fc-under-15-boys-squad-beat-the-u-s-womens-national-team-in-a-scrimmage/

    Newcastle Jets U-15 Boys Team Trashes Australia Women’s National Team 7-0
    https://www.goal.com/en-us/news/1698/womens-soccer/2016/05/26/23954642/australia-womens-soccer-team-faces-unfair-global-backlash

    • Thanks for the references. The whole stadium was chanting “equal pay”, supposedly. So if the prize money gets equalized such that the winning women’s team gets $40 million (what a World Cup men’s team would earn for winning), why wouldn’t it make sense for a group of 15-year-old boys to raise their hands, identify as women, and collect $40 million for 90 minutes of work?

    • As in so many other areas, it seems that the Iranians are smarter than average: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/11903290/Eight-of-Irans-womens-football-team-are-men.html

      Eight of Iran’s women’s football team are actually men awaiting sex change operations, it has been claimed. The country’s football association was accused of being “unethical” for knowingly fielding eight men in its women’s team. … The Iranian women’s team play in hijab headscarfs, long-sleeved tops and tracksuit bottoms.

      [Iran also lacks the prejudice against LGBTQIA folk that requires so much work (on Facebook) by Americans. From the article: “Gender change operations are legal in Iran according to a fatwa – or religious ruling – pronounced by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution.”]

  2. Why US is currently so much better (for now):

    1.) Title IX effectively said “spend as much on women’s soccer as you do on men’s football” and applied from elementary school onward. (This is all wrong in detail, but that’s the net effect.) It made a huge difference in the talent pool.

    2.) Men’s soccer is a dud in the US and huge elsewhere. US women’s teams get the attention. Crowds and public support matter. In Europe the men get the attention.

    3.) American women spend much more on athletic wear than European women. This means major sponsorship money for American teams, and that’s crucial to take athletes from amateur level to professional level.

    4.) European men play in professional leagues that provide international competition at the top level. Not as much for European women.

  3. I can speak about Europe where I hail from. Soccer is such an obsession in Europe for men that women don’t want anything to do with it — it turns them off as an activity. The press doesn’t care as much for women’s soccer: the women’s world cup gets less attention than whatever happened in men’s tennis at Wimbledon.

  4. I don’t see any reason to celebrate women’s sports achievements any more than, say, disabled people’s sports achievements or younger age groups (Under-19, Under-21, etc.). Who knows which country’s men’s soccer team is a junior world champion? Perhaps only people who follow soccer very closely.

    These people are competing against one another in separate events because otherwise they would get trashed by adult men in mixed age/gender events.

    I don’t vouch for the quality of this answer on Quora, but it seems like there are very few sports where women demonstrate absolute athletic advantage over men:

    https://www.quora.com/In-which-sports-do-women-have-better-world-records-than-men

    Essentially, being a female is a natural handicap from most sports’ point of view.

  5. Update: A friend who lives in Berkeley is a lifelong amateur soccer player. He said that he was a huge fan of the U.S. women’s team because they had made anti-Trump statements. How did he enjoy the game? “I didn’t watch it,” he replied. “I went on a bike ride instead.”

  6. > Why is the women’s team able to prevail over other countries?
    The reason is that the USA has invested in the sport, in particular for the female version. Football (soccer) has not a great tradition in the USA as a professional game, being fairly recent (although at an amateur sport, it’s played in great numbers). Even the male version doesn’t attract a lot of attention and for decades, most foreign players recruited by US teams go there for their “golden years” like Beckham or Ibrahimovic. If you don’t invest on something (monetarily, culturally, marketing etc.), it doesn’t flourish. Except for athletics, the US is extremely isolationist in the sports it plays and doesn’t care for them to be expanded (exceptions are Basketball and, barely, Baseball) – there are no other international major leagues of American Football, Baseball or Nascar, for example.

    In Europe, on the contrary, football is more than a 100 years old with enormous presence and resources, but, to the most part, just male. Female football is fairly new and very underinvested.

    > Also, if the teams are drawn from citizens of the respective countries, shouldn’t the populous countries such as China, India, and the U.S. have a huge advantage? Why would the Netherlands or Sweden have a chance?
    Phil, you’re smarter than this:
    – Why does Switzerland have more Nobel Prize Winners than India and China combined?
    – Why does China only started winning Olympic Gold in 1984 – they were already a billion back then, >4x as much as the US, and even in that year the US won 5.47x as many gold medals as China?
    – Why does India have less Olympic gold medals than the number of fingers you have?

    The answer is that, yes, demographics are important, but it’s one factor. Culture, tradition, institutions, money and even biology, among others, play major roles. If China would invest proportionally to say, Portugal, it’s highly likely they’d be strong contenders.

    Finally, once you’re in the game, it’s 11 against 11. Yes, you can get a better pool of candidates, but at a certain level, there’s more to it: tactics and strategy, morale, individual inspiration and luck.

    > Finally, what stops a country from sending in what had been their “men’s team” and saying “all of these players now identify as ‘women’”?
    Phil, you’re obsessed. Why don’t you identify as woman and tell us how it goes? The answer is, some people may try to take advantage of that, but overall, the majority of people don’t “identify” willy-nilly, like the majority doesn’t steal things even if the chance of being caught is very very low.

  7. I watched the Women’s World Cup final, and it was a pretty good game.

    When/if your kids start playing soccer, and they want to start playing on a competitive traveling team, you too will have the opportunity to understand why there’s a difference between boys vs girls soccer in the US, and between the US and Europe. The fairly recent addition of girls soccer programs in the US is on par with the amount of time that girls globally have been playing at a high level. Which is completely different from the US boys programs, where the US is way way way behind in terms of talent development. In Europe there’s a well developed club system where all the big teams support youth clubs in their area (think Little League on steroids with clubhouses, good coaches, good fields, etc.), and they also provide low or no cost summer training programs, with very high quality coaches. That’s completely different from the US where program $$ comes from the players and their families. There’s also more interesting/sinister questions about where those $$ actually go in the US (and it isn’t always the players who are benefiting). For example, here in my home town in Northern California a large percentage of the yearly soccer club fees goes to paying the “program director” well over 175K a year.

    If you’re interested there are three programs worth watching – “All Or Nothing” about Manchester City https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FRNLKX1, https://www.netflix.com/title/81049949 about Antoine Griezmann, and the one about Sunderland https://www.netflix.com/title/80207046

  8. I saw somewhere that US Women’s team revenue recently has exceeded the Men’s. This seems to obviate US Soccer’s argument. Equal pay!

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