USMNT - USWNT: Apples and Oranges
By John Santos
As a fan of both US Men’s and Women’s Soccer, I’ve seen my fair share of good and bad. From World Cup successes to World Cup failures, I’d like to think that I’ve seen quite a lot from both sides of the gender divide. Neither program is perfect, but both have been instrumental in growing the sport of Soccer in the United States. The successes of one program over the other have also determined how some people view Soccer in this country.
One of the myths that usually arise is that Women’s Soccer is better than the Men’s at all facets from skill to entertainment value. And in a competitive encounter, the results would clearly show this.
To say that the Women’s side of things is better than the Men’s, is short sided. Both are completely different and compete against different competition. The difference is not the skill level, but rather the commitment that other countries put on their respective Men’s and Women’s Soccer programs. In hindsight, it’s completely skewed. Not only is there 1st division Soccer here in the form of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), but most NCAA institutions make it a priority to have a Women’s Soccer program (sometimes at the expense of a Men’s program). From a young age, Women in this country have access to the tools to one day become a pro player. Not quite the case in other countries where historic legislature like Title IX never took place.
In countries like Argentina, England, Spain, and Mexico where their FA’s devote million and millions of dollars and countless resources each year to their Men’s national teams, they almost ignore their Women’s teams. Only recently did Brazil, Germany (back to back Women’s World Cup winners) and Japan (current World Champions) start taking their Women’s programs seriously. And before that China and Norway were the World Powers alongside the USA and Canada. North Korea is one of the best teams in Asia and usually ranked within the top 5 in the world when it comes to Women’s soccer. And their Men’s team? Publicly shamed after the World Cup by their Dear Leader following a 1st Round performance which saw them lose all three matches (one by the score of 7-0). In a country like North Korea, one can surmise that both the Men and Women have access to the exact same resources (or lack thereof) for the national programs.
The level of fan interest in Women’s Soccer is also skewed around the world. For example, let’s take the US Women. Unlike their male counterparts, the US Women don't have to deal with travelling away to different parts of the world like Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, etc… to try and qualify for the World Cup like the Men do. Could you imagine 100,000 Mexicans yelling "P*ta" every time Hope Solo or Nicole Barnhart took a Goal kick at Azteca or 80,000 Brazilians at The Estádio do Maracanã samba-ing in the aisles for 90 minutes? 20,000+ Costa Ricans supporting their WNT against the US at Estadio Saprissa (the Men will be dealing with the latter in a few months, but that's a topic for another day)?
No, because the nations populace and potential fanbase would have to care for Women’s Soccer for that to happen. And when it comes to being competitive, many national teams have such a small pool of talent that they are looking at American Women with dual citizenship to help fill their needs (Teresa Noyola anyone?). It’s not that these nations are trying to poach players with amazing skills; they are simply in need to build their depth charts. Something that wouldn’t be necessary if Women in said countries were A) interested, and B) encouraged to participate in the sport.
Make no mistake about it; I'm a big fan of the US Women’s national team and Women’s Soccer in general. I will support always, be it at the Women’s World Cup, or a friendly at the Home Depot Center. But this notion that many in the Soccer community have, that Women’s Soccer is superior when compared to the Men’s game, is for lack of a better word, silly.
Can’t we all just enjoy our apples and oranges?