Revolution

Sweeney: Three ways to help grow the women’s game includes bringing back the Breakers – but that’s not all

When Title IX came into being in this country back in the 1970s, it started sending resources — development dollars — toward women’s sports. And since the 1990s, we have seen a massive trend of the United States women, whether it be soccer or basketball and even ice hockey, dominating the world in international competition.

US women’s hockey: 9 world championships, 2 Olympic golds
US women’s basketball: 10 world championships, 8 Olympic golds
US women’s soccer: 4 world championships, 4 Olympic golds, 9 CONCACAF titles

While arguments can be made that no one in the world is catching up to the United States in women’s hoops — the last six Olympic golds, people! — and while the US has a strong rivalry with Canada in women’s puck, the fact is that the rest of the world is starting to creep up on the United States when it comes to soccer.

Before this World Cup tournament, who had heard of Christiane Endler, Chile’s remarkable goalkeeper? How about Kosovare Asllani or Stina Blackstenius of Sweden? Danielle Van De Donk? Ellen White? Amandine Henry? Gaetene Thiney? Eugenie Le Sommer? All wonderful, talented players on their national teams, and all of whom are game-changers.

And there are plenty of players that are up-and-coming, like Canada’s 21-year-old midfielder Jessie Fleming, now at UCLA, or 18-year-old Panamanian keeper Yenith Bailey, who stood out at the CONCACAF Championships last fall.

In short, football associations across the globe are pouring resources into women’s soccer development. FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Friday that it’s time to grow the game the world over, and will start funneling money toward football associations to further develop young women into soccer players. There’s also talk of increasing World Cup prize money, expanding the World Cup field to 32 teams, and starting a women’s Club World Cup like it has for the men.

And with the English Premier League moving one step closer to wresting control of the English Women’s Super League from the FA, it’s easy to see a scenario where English owners are starting to see the benefits of investing in and developing women’s soccer players in that country.

If the United States wants to maintain its dominance deep into the future, it needs to grow larger than it already is.

And how does it do that?

Glad you asked. Here are three ways to do it.

The NWSL has to expand

The National Women’s Soccer League is the latest incarnation of top-division soccer for women in our country, and one can make the argument that it’s slow in growing its fan base.