There are lots of reasons to anticipate that the sixth edition of the Women’s World Cup will be a compelling event.
Host Germany will be trying to win a third consecutive cup.
Marta, celebrated over the past several years as the most talented and creative female player in the world, will attempt to lead Brazil to the soccer-saturated country’s first championship.
The U.S. team, the only one besides Germany to have finished first more than once, will be challenged to reconfirm what winning Olympic Gold in 2008 established: that they are once again the world’s top team.
Meanwhile, Norway, Sweden, England, and Canada, among others, will feature players who’ve had the opportunity to compete with and against the best in the world, thanks to the Women’s Pro Soccer League.
The games in the group stage should be more consistently attractive and competitive than ever before.
But what was supposed to have happened by 2011 has not happened. In 1999, when the U.S. women put over ninety thousand people in the Rose Bowl for the game in which they beat China for the championship, lots of fans of the women’s game felt their sport had not only turned a corner, but jumped on to a highway with no speed limits, let alone stop signs. Given the attention paid by everybody from Time Magazine to David Letterman, their optimism wasn’t surprising.
Since then one women’s pro league has come and gone. It failed in embarrassing proximity to the 2003 World Cup. Some of the teams in the pro league’s second, less lucrative manifestation still play on football fields.
Whereas the members of the 1999 U.S. team were celebrated as role models in terms of their fitness, skills, teamwork, and determination, the uniforms the members of the 2011 team will be wearing have been derided as “hot nurse outfits.”
Perhaps one day these accomplished athletes will receive the sort of recognition their male counterparts in the most popular sports take for granted. But for whatever combination of reasons, solid or silly, fans waiting for that day will have to continue to exercise more patience than they thought they’d need back in 1999.