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For every mom or dad that signed their daughter up to play youth soccer or drove them to practice or spent time in the yard working on dribbling and kicking, this Cup’s for you.
The United States has demonstrated again that it has the best women’s soccer players in the world by winning its fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup championship. The U.S., especially this year, has dominated the World Cup, winning half of them since it started in 1991 while finishing no worse than third ever. Given that the United States has never won the World Cup in men’s soccer and only reached the semifinals once — in the inaugural edition way back in 1930 — it would seem to be amazing that the U.S. has come to dominate women’s soccer.
But not really.
Girls in the United States simply have had more opportunities to engage in athletics than in other countries. That’s a direct result from Title IX, part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 that guaranteed equal opportunities in “any education program.” The law opened the door for females to participate in athletics in ways they had never done before and changed the sports culture in this country.
After all, Fike High didn’t have a girls basketball team until the mid-1970s.
It doesn’t take much to realize the impact of that landmark law nearly a half-century again. American women dominate other international sports such as basketball and softball and have always been at or near the top in track and field. But American men are also dominant in those sports, especially baseball and basketball since they were invented in this country. Our men also fare well in track, boxing and a host of other international sports.
It’s just in soccer that our men still haven’t seemed to be able to catch up and maybe never will even with the sport continuing to grow at the youth level in this country. Maybe it’s because soccer can’t lay claim to the best male athletes, although it’s debatable if the best female athletes end up on the soccer field. There’s no easy answer to why the U.S. Women’s National Team is clearly the best female soccer side on the planet and the USMNT is struggling to be a contender on the world stage. That disparity was made evident once again when, after the U.S. won the Women’s World Cup on Sunday in France, the men’s team fell to Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final Sunday night in Chicago.
But there is an easy answer to why the U.S. produces the best female athletes in the world and that’s because of those opportunities that were guaranteed by Title IX. More importantly, it’s that we’ve taken advantage of those opportunities and girls grow up today knowing that they can play just about any sport the boys play.
And for all those moms and dads who made sure their daughters got out there and played soccer — and softball and basketball and tennis and every other sport that women can play in America — realize that you are just like the parents of the superstars of the U.S. Women’s National Team. They were able to rise to the top because of the competition that was in front of them at an early age.
So, take a bow, this World Cup’s for you, too.