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This most recent FIFA Women’s World Cup was a pivotal one for the sport. Not only was it the tournament where VAR made it’s auspicious debut, and where Megan Rapinoe, one of the games most colorful players, reached the pinnacle of her storied career, but it was the tournament that proved that European countries are ready to watch Women’s international soccer on the tele and in person. This tournament will likely be remembered for the each of those, and other factors as well. But now that it’s all over here’s what stood out in my eyes.

 

  1. RIP Florijana Ismaili. This story wasn’t as widely reported as it should have been, at least in the US. The Swiss footballer jumped into a lake and never resurfaced. Her body was eventually found 200 meters below the surface. How this happened is a question for experts to answer on another day, but it is a tragedy befalling a sport during it’s highest point. Godspeed to her friends and family.
  2. Technical football is alive and well, although not so much in the US. The US women beat five UEFA teams en route to winning the World Cup. At least three of whom out played the US with the ball at their feet. The US has improved at the technical aspects of soccer under Ellis, and the midfield of Horan, Lavelle, Mewis, and Brian suggests that the trend will continue. It will have to should the US hope to win in 2023. They won this tournament with depth, mentality, and superior fitness. At some point they’ll need to win with good passing.
  3. The gap is closing on the USWNT dominance but maybe not as quickly as other people think. Despite the advances the US team has made in many technical areas they still spent most of the tournament looking for the long ball. With Heath, Rapinoe and Morgan on form that’s certainly the best strategy, but they won’t have that luxury in the future. What they do have is a superior mentality, as referenced by Kelly O’Hara and several others throughout the tournament, and an incredible advantage in fitness. Despite being the oldest team the US was clearly more fit than their opponents, including the French and English teams which approximated their talent on the field. Fitness is ingrained in the culture of the USWNT and as long as they are the fittest they’ll remain favorites in major tournaments.
  4. Let’s give Jill Ellis some props. Whether it was benching Horan, resting her starters in the group stage, or risking starting two players with injuries in the finals everything that Ellis did worked and she deserves the recognition of being the first coach to win 2 World cup titles since the 1930’s.
  5. VAR could have been worse. It’s a change that will take time for people to get used to but the good calls far outweighed the interruptions in game play.
  6. The fight to end gender discrimination in professional sports should be over. For some reason it isn’t.
  7. FIFA could solve this problem easily within 1 cycle. Instead of doing the bare minimum and announcing it like it’s a huge favor to women everywhere FIFA could simply define its expectations for what constitutes a legitimate attempt at creating an equitable environment for women and…..not pay the federations that do not comply their full allocation. The the federations that do not comply will fall behind in the men's side as well and there will be plenty of money to help the federations that want to improve the resources available to their women’s programs.
  8. Megan Rapinoe deserved this moment. She’s a champion on and off the pitch.
  9. How will the World Cup’s success impact the NWSL? After the 2015 WWC the NWSL saw a two year bump in popularity. As the league continues to struggle how will the enthusiasm of this world cup and the new deal with ESPN help? Certainly it would be nice to see the league add at least a tenth team again if not move up to twelve teams with some additional investment.

 

And Another Thing…As Women’s Soccer Enters A New Era, The USWNT Still Bears The Standard. On the pitch the USWNT continue to set the standard. As the European squads and Australia try to rise to their level on the pitch the USWNT continues to fight for women everywhere, despite having by far the best deals of women anywhere on this planet. It makes what they do all the more impressive.

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