By Neil W. Blackmon
One of the most rewarding things about being a soccer fan is the season lasts the entire year. Even when club football is over- there is always something happening in the summer. The year after a Men’s World Cup– you get multiple regional championships, including the brilliant Copa America. You’re also rewarded, if you’re willing to watch entertaining and dramatic football, with the Women’s World Cup. Two years after a World Cup you get the EURO and have some World Cup qualifying. Three years after, or the year before the next World Cup, you get the Confederations Cup and more qualifying. Then the cycle repeats itself. Soccer fandom can be tiring, emotionally trying and weekend sleep depriving, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor that keeps giving.
This summer we will once again be privileged to watch the United States Women’s National team compete for the World Championship. Having hoisted two World Cup trophies, a third would cement their status as the greatest women’s footballing team (and as such nation) on Earth, and perhaps once again it would captivate the hearts and minds of a country, just as it did for so many of us twelve years ago.
Yes, as a site we are well aware of the importance of the men’s tournament that precedes the Women’s World Cup. A Gold Cup title this summer means Confederations Cup football in 2013 and all the attendant benefits that come from visiting the host a year early. Our coverage of that tournament we hope will be extensive, enjoyable and fair. We’re as excited to see the full top-level men’s unit together again as you are.
That said, the primary prize to be won for the United States as a soccer nation this summer is another Women’s World Cup trophy. A few weekends ago, while kicking around summer content ideas, Jon Levy, Puck and I discussed how exciting the Women’s World Cups in 00 and 07 were, and how we really wanted to make sure the women got their due. As University of Florida alums, we also knew this would likely be the last World Cup runs for two of our alma mater’s most storied alumni- Heather Mitts and Abby Wambach. That was half of what cemented what will follow in the next two paragraphs. Some of it was also affection for Tobin Heath, even if she’s a Tar Heel. But there was more to it than that.
One of the great joys of becoming a (somewhat) established and (somewhat) respected soccer website in this country has been seeing other folks implement great ideas and execute them. Match Fit USA brought us the American Soccer Show, for example- which is a consistent and reliable podcast that focuses on the game on our shores, and truly is one of the best things going for either a late night glass of wine and football fix or a power job early in the morning. Their MLS coverage is second to none as well, and they, in our view, are deeply responsible for the growth in popularity of that league in the last two seasons. Another site we respect a great deal, The Shin Guardian, has had two particularly great ideas. The second, a USMNT tribute video competition, brought the creativity out of the raucous and devoted USMNT followers and was a joy in the build-up to the 2010 World Cup. The first, a rousing tribute coordinated with the American Outlaws for fallen USMNT starlet Charlie Davies- was moving and proof that soccer fandom involves a sense of community in this country that isn’t paralleled in any other sport. Those types of “rally together” or “bring people together” moments are inspiring, and certainly are foundational in what we are hoping to pull off this summer. That should serve as ample introduction. Here’s what we are hoping to do.
One of the things that Landon Donovan said was striking about last year, even before the Algeria goal brought a country together, if only briefly, was the level of support the USMNT received in the build-up to the Cup. We felt loved like never before, he remarked. And they were. Anyone who was in Philadelphia for the Turkey match or witnessed the Czech Republic send-off fixture understood that for perhaps the first time in history, a whole country was behind the US before they even kicked the ball around in the World Cup. It was a signal of how far the game has come in this country. That’s inspiring, but it shouldn’t be limited to Landon and the boys.
What Jon, Puck, myself and the TYAC staff are hoping to do is give the women a similar send-off. We want them to know that we are behind them, that they are splendid, that they inspire us, and that win, lose or draw they make us immensely proud. This won’t mean we sugarcoat analysis if things go poorly once they get to Germany– on the contrary, our analysis will be equally as brutal to them as we were to the men after say, the Slovenia match last year. But in the build-up, a groundswell of support, affection and resolve can go a long way. At this point, you may be asking– what does this have to do with us as readers? Thanks for asking.
Here’s the deal: this isn’t a contest. All we have to offer is a chance for us to post your thoughts or essays. But make no mistake: we WANT you all involved. So please write to us, using the e-mail at the bottom of this post. Tell us your first memory of the USWNT, or why you admire a particular player. Tell us what you hope will happen in Germany. Or just send us a note of well-wishes and we will MAKE SURE it gets to the women before they leave. Please participate– building a TYAC community to show support is one of our largest goals, and this will fail without you.
On our end, we have assurances from the wonderful folks at Free Beer Movement that they will come up with something creative as a salute to the women. The Shin Guardian will also chip in, and if you haven’t noticed, they have already begun to analyze and break things down in the run-up to the tournament– I highly recommend both their and ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle’s pieces about the 2-0 win over Japan Wednesday evening. We’re hopeful that Eric Beard and the A Football Report crew will get in on the act as well. Any other publication that wants to write a tribute piece, a memory of the USWNT piece, or anything related to the best women’s side on the planet is more than welcome to contact us and join in. As American soccer fans, we are above all a community– and a proud one.
Thank you for reading. Let’s make this summer special. We will begin our series of USWNT tribute pieces this weekend, with a piece from Dr. Raf Crowley on why the USWNT is exceptional, even if Title IX isn’t.
Neil W. Blackmon is the Editor-In-Chief of The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at email@example.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @nwb_usmnt.