Taking Women's Football Mainstream
The United States Women's National Team (USWNT) has been revolutionizing the way many of us look at women's soccer. They have also increased the popularity and impact women's soccer has had in the United States (US).
Three years after winning the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, the USWNT won the Women's World Cup final in Canada thanks to the efforts of one of their star players, Carli Lloyd.
The 33-year-old was the captain of her side in the final against Japan, in which she scored a hat-trick inside the opening 16 minutes of play on July 5.
Reuters regarded her third goal as 'one of the most remarkable goals ever witnessed in a Women's World Cup,' as she chipped the ball from the half-way line over Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori.
This was the first time a hat-trick had been scored in the Women's World Cup final. In fact, Carli Lloyd was the first player, male or female, to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final since Geoff Hurst did so in the 1966 final at Wembley for England against West Germany.
The USWNT won the final 5-2 with the other two goals for the US coming from Lauren Holiday and Tobin Heath.
Five days after the final, they were welcomed back to a ticker-tape parade down New York's Canyon of Heroes in Broadway, Manhattan. This was the first time a women's sports team has ever been given this accolade.
Holiday said on the day of the parade: "We're going to look back on this day and see it as a defining moment of women's sports. I feel so honoured and blessed to be a part of that."
Some in the past have criticised the standard of women's sports. Sports Illustrated writer Andy Benoit posted on his Twitter account before the final that he thought women's soccer was ‘not worth watching.' He later deleted the tweet and apologised.
Ten days after their final win, the USWNT collected an ESPY award for the best team of the year, beating the New England Patriots, Golden State Warriors, and the Chicago Blackhawks.
The USWNT just kept on winning as Lloyd's teammate, Alex Morgan, was named on the cover of the North American edition of the FIFA 16 video game alongside Barcelona's Lionel Messi.
Canada's Christine Sinclair is also on the cover of the game in Canada. This is the first time women have been on the cover of the prestigious game.
Sinclair said in an interview with Rolling Stone: "I'm thrilled that EA Sports is celebrating female athletes in FIFA 16. To be featured in the game and to promote women's soccer with Alex is really special and another exciting step for women in sports."
The World Cup win is has caused more people to watch women's soccer. A match between the Portland Thorns and the Seattle Reign on July 22 was viewed by a sell-out crowd of 21,144 at Providence Park according to the Washington Times.
The Thorns usually only average 13,769 fans a game, the highest in the NWSL. 13,025 fans were also at BBVA Compass Stadium for Houston Dash's game versus the Chicago Red Stars. These high turnouts show how much of an effect the USWNT World Cup win is having for women's soccer.
These achievements show how popular and the positive impact on women's soccer the USWNT World Cup win is having in the US.
Thorns head coach Paul Riley said we won't see the real effects of the USWNT performance at the World Cup until next year after season tickets have been sold, a stance which notes caution but makes sense long-term.
He said: "Our job is to put teams out that people want to come pay money to watch, and put them in suitable stadiums for people to watch. I think that's the next step for everybody and hopefully they can do that, the whole league."
Lloyd's hat-trick helped the USWNT win the World Cup, which has ultimately made everybody rethink about women's soccer and an appeal the sport to more people. Attendances should only rise for the NWSL and more highly rated accolades will be coming towards female athletes.