Jessica Berman asks: How to level playing field with men’s soccer? I have some ideas — Vlatko, Rose speak

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Jan. 23, 2023

Happy Soccer Monday. (Editor’s note: technical delays have pushed this to early-morning Tuesday. Apologies!) Jessica Berman asked a question yesterday that intrigued me, because I encountered it a few times while I was in Qatar.

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Here’s a couple of examples. When Ronaldo scored he was celebrated as the lone player to score in five World Cups. Oh hey, Christine Sinclair and Marta!

Then there was talk the players who had joined the five-timers club, including Messi, Ronaldo, and Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa and Andres Guardado. Brazil’s Formiga played in seven and Japan’s Homare Sawa played in six.

Kylian Mbappe became the first to to score three goals in a final since 1996. But that’s leaving out Carli Lloyd’s inspired performance in the 2015 World Cup final against Japan. Also, Olivier Giroud is was celebrated as top scorer for France with 52 goals, but Eugenie Le Sommer has 86.

Personally, I always like to put “men’s” before World Cup in stories about the fellas (sometimes my editors even let it stay!) But here are a few ideas:

  1. We need more women in soccer/football media on both sides. So much of the time media organizations have men covering men’s soccer and women covering women’s soccer. It is time we shook that up. Of course, there are exceptions, Kevin Baxter of the L.A. Times and Steven Goff from the Washington Post, off the top of my head. People like me need to do a better job of mentoring young soccer writers. On top of that, the NWSL, and indeed women’s leagues internationally, need media rights deals that can spread the word. And by that I don’t mean another random streaming service deal (How many subscriptions do I already have?). The exposure needs to be across multiple platforms including traditional network television.
  2. We need allies on the men’s side. Not just folks like Messi and Ronaldo, who can point out women when asked about their records. But even FIFA needs to step it up. In Qatar, I saw only one booth touting this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The promotion of the women’s game needs to happen in conjunction with the men’s game. And in a perfect world I’d love to hear the commentators for the MLS halftime shows mention scores/standings in the NWSL. OK, I’m probably dreaming with that one.
  3. We need to celebrate and promote individual players. We do this now, but it’s kind of in a woso echo chamber. The average Joe on the street might know about Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, but they may not have heard about Sophia Smith. Part of this goes back to the media, it’s our responsibility to tell these stories well. It’s also up to potential sponsors. I mean, who wouldn’t want Smith as a spokesperson for your brand? She’s amazing.
  4. Finally, and this is the biggest one: We need investment. Investment from media companies to cover more soccer (Oh hey, the attention on the women’s game is only going to grow!). Investment from sponsors, obviously. Investment from team owners for facilities. Let’s face it, it always comes down to money. Abby Wambach told me a few years ago that the biggest thing holding the women’s game back is money.

So that’s all kind of stating the obvious. Nothing new here. But since Berman asked, I decided to answer.

One other thing, a story I’ve been working on for a while about women and coaching was published this morning. I was thinking about it last year when all the coaches got drummed out of the NWSL because of misconduct. Where were the qualified women to jump into these roles? Turns out, coaching licenses are expensive and time consuming. There’s also few jobs, and a lack of oversight. Christy Holly never had the requisite license to coach in the NWSL, and no one ever called him on it. Anyway, I appreciate all the clicks you can muster.

Also, some big breaking news from this morning: Racing Louisville traded Emily Fox to North Carolina in exchange for Abby Erceg and Carson Pickett.

Erceg was surprised by the move:

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The Athletic’s Meg Linehan, who went to New Zealand for the USWNT’s January camp, had some takeaways.

The Athletic’s Steph Yang wrote a nice story about Current draft pick Michelle Cooper.

Blair Newman wrote for The Equalizer about the takeaways from the New Zealand matches.

Also for The Equalizer, Bekki Morgan writes about Racing goalkeeper Katie Lund.

Plea from The Telegraph’s Tom Garry to stop treating the WSL as a minor league.

More about the frozen pitch controversy here from ESPN

Jonathan Tannenwald of the Philadelphia Inquirer questions the future of the NWSL draft.

Jason Anderson sizes up the USWNT’s latest matches for ProSoccerWire. PS: I love this site from our friends at USA Today. No doubt it will grow in traction ahead of this summer’s World Cuyp and the 2026 men’s tournament down the road.

The Athletic’s Katie Whyatt wrote about Millie Farrow’s battle with OCD.

Wales strikes and equal pay deal with its men’s and women’s teams.

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir challenged Lyon over her maternity leave, and won.

Emma Hruby writes for Just Women’s Sports about Christen Press and Tobin Heath training following injury.

CBS Sports’ Sandra Herrera on how Alyssa Thompson is breaking barriers.

Ameé Ruszkai for on the collab between Bayern Munich and Tigres women.

Five at The IX: Vlatko Andonovski and Rose Lavelle

Vlatko Andonovski and Rose Lavelle hold court after U.S. victory over New Zealand on Friday. Or Saturday, if you’re in New Zealand.

Question: How did it feel to be captain?

Lavelle: It was nice. I think anytime you can captain for the national team it’s definitely an honor. Not something to take lightly and thanks for giving it to me (looks to Andonovski).

Question: What did you take from this trip?

Lavelle: I think this was a really, really good test run for us. I think it’s really valuable to be able to come here and get a feel for what we’ll experience when we come back in six months. Even just experiencing the travel between group games and I guess, the whole tournament but yeah, I think it was really good for us to like know what to expect when we come back.

Question: What was the atmosphere like?

Lavelle: It was great. It was really fun to play in. I think the atmosphere is incredible. I also think just anytime you can get that experience with a crowd, that’s not in your favor, it’s good. I think we always play a lot of home games, so usually we can feed off that energy. So I think having that experience too was really good for us.

Question: Question for Andonoviski about the tests the team faced.

Andonovski: Like Rose said, this was a great test for us, and I can speak about tests on the field as well because we started in the second half of last game to connect certain lines, or certain players and the lines, and it looked good. And we wanted to see that a little bit more in this game. I think in this game we were more consistent and more concise from the get go, from the very beginning. I thought, on the other side, the opponent, New Zealand did well, they were organized, they were disciplined, they were trying to neutralize and eliminate those options, but we were just I guess a little more precise this time and even though even though we didn’t score more goals, I felt like we created a little better opportunities in this game.

Question: How does your role change with Sanchez or Horan?

Lavelle: I think I dropped down more so Sanchez could be the one floating in that, in-between the midfield and the backline. So I think I touched the ball more deeper, which I kind of have fun doing that, too. I think no matter what, if I’m playing with Lindsay, if I’m playing with Sanchez, they are both really good players and fun to connect with, so I’ll do either.

Question: (Inadible) about Trinity Rodman.

Andonvoski: Yes, I agree. And that’s something that we pointed out because in the last game, she had an opportunity to have almost identical assists, like this one, and I’m very proud of her that she took that process well and she assisted that way. I mean that’s what these games are for, besides team growth or synchronizing lines, preparing the team, it’s also for individual development. And players like Trinity, Sanchez, Foxy These are games that we can see the growth and I think that this was very good for her.

Question: Talk about Lynn Williams.

Andonovski: Lynn is fun to have on the team. She’s She’s hard worker. She’s very energetic and just takes this team to a different level or dynamics and once again, she had a couple of opportunities didn’t capitalize on it, but I thought she played well.

Question: Regarding the players on the field, was that the result of any nagging injuries?

Andonovski: Was that just kind of nagging? The only concern that we had was Alex, and we had a conversation with Alex before the game, actually during the warmup. And she could play, but it was one of those: Is really worth risking? So we decided just to take it easy. Obviously we have Ashley Hatch who we would trust and who we think is also a very good player and can can fill in at any point in time. It was a good opportunity for us. She scored a nice goal and played well.

Question: How many boxes did you tick in terms of what you want to achieve on this trip?

Andonovski: I don’t know exactly how many boxes we ticked but definitely from the technical standpoint, or on the field stuff, we created pictures that are going to help us going forward. But also from the logistical standpoint, the organizational part, we saw things that we want to do different maybe when we come for the World Cup, or things that we want to we want to do the same. Overall very successful camp for this group. Important that everybody is going home healthy, two good tests, great travel — very enjoyable travel, too. I have to say the team really enjoyed New Zealand. It was a great, great camp overall.

Question: Was there anything you didn’t get to experience while you were here?

Lavelle: Well we’re not gonna get to experience how cold it’s gonna be. So that’s the one thing. I feel like that’s gonna be kind of weird. I don’t know what it’ll be in Fahrenheit. What is it? (50s) Oh, okay. I actually think that’s perfect soccer playing weather so that’ll be fun.

Andonovski: Coming from Cincinnati 55 is a great soccer winner and then we have players from California that thing 75 to 80s is great soccer weather. (Laughs).

Written by Annie Peterson