The following story was written by Danny Nolan.
American sports aren’t exactly having the greatest summer. Between two major lockouts, Roger Clemens’ trial, and incredibly insensitive remarks made by James Harrison, the last week alone has been one to forget.
Enter the Women’s World Cup.
In what can only be described as an emotional thrill ride, the United States women’s soccer team has taken the country by storm with their run to the FIFA Women’s World Cup final. Americans across the nation have found themselves stopping what they’re doing to catch a glimpse of the team’s games.
“When the World Cup started, I don’t think very many people knew about it,” Duke forward Mollie Pathman said. “But now, for every game, I have so many people texting me telling me how excited they are.”
Pathman, along with several other members of the Duke soccer team, have been keeping up with the action in Germany. While the games are entertaining, players said that watching the high-level soccer also teaches different techniques and styles.
“There’s a lot to learn watching the [United States] team and even watching other teams,” Pathman said. “You can learn different aspects of the game from different players.”
As a veteran of three World Cups with the United States, Blue Devil assistant coach Carla Overbeck understands what the women in Germany are going through. Overbeck was a 23-year-old reserve defender in 1991, and played a key role in 1995 before captaining the 1999 Cup-winning team. Looking back on her playing days, Overbeck says that this national team has the intangibles that helped her teams succeed.
“This team is the same in that their true determination and will a lot of times propels them to victory. We as Americans... pride ourselves as being the fittest team and the one that goes after it.”
This 2011 squad has been compared to the 1999 national team several times the past few weeks, high praise considering the latter’s plethora of quality personnel and accomplishments. Perhaps the best example of this came just last week in the quarterfinals, when the United States defeated Brazil in penalty kicks, 12 years to the day after their predecessors won the World Cup in penalties. The late game dramatics are just another reason why many have found themselves watching this World Cup.
“[Americans] love underdog stories and seeing them succeed,” Duke senior defender Molly Mack said. “I think it will be the perfect catalyst for the sport.”
Mack’s enthusiasm about the future of women’s soccer is due in large part to her own experiences watching the 1999 team take the title when she was little.
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“I was 9 years old looking at players like Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy and they were like superheroes [to me],” Mack said. “I was lucky to be exposed to soccer at an early age and it looks like it’s happening all over again.”
A huge reason for the increased viewership of the tournament has been through the usage of social media. Services such as Twitter and Facebook are used periodically by both players and fans, allowing an even greater connection be made with this national team.
“It’s unbelievable to see the number of Americans that are behind this team,” Overbeck said. “You’re hearing on blogs and tweets about how people are changing schedules to see [these games].”
Soccer isn’t the most popular sport in the country, but one thing is for sure: when the United States plays Japan this weekend, America will be watching.