If not already, Hope Solo, Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd will likely be household names by the end of the week after the U.S. Women’s National Team concludes its media circuit following a 5-2 victory over Japan on Sunday, giving the U.S. its first World Cup title since 1999.
A record 22.86 million viewers tuned in to FOX, the television network broadcasting the game, to watch the women’s team complete its romp over Japan. And while many sports fans are still reeling in hysteria following the win, some players on the girls soccer team at Waxahachie High School are hoping that same hysteria translates into something soccer still lacks in the area.
“I’m hoping that all of that transfers here,” Waxahachie alumna Mikayla Acosta said. “I think we’re good, but we never get enough support sometimes from this community because mostly it’s about football. But I mean, we support the football team, we go to everything. It’s just nice that maybe for once our town would show up for a soccer game.”
What Acosta is asking may seem unlikely to some, as football has always dominated the Lone Star state. But for players like her and her sister Ariana, an incoming junior on the team, they’ve waited for support in their hometown about as long as Wambach waited to win the World Cup.
And after winning the World Cup on Sunday, the sisters are hoping USA’s success coupled with the current frenzy surrounding soccer will endure for years to come.
“It’d be cool to see it explode like it does in Europe,” Ariana said.
California is largely the most popular state in the U.S. for youth soccer as more than 250,000 girls soccer players are registered in the state, according to an article published in May in the L.A. Times.
The same article included six players on the U.S. national team are from California in addition to nine players on Mexico’s national team.
Texas isn’t too far behind in regards to youth soccer, but without as strong an influence in homegrown talent, it can be hard for some areas to pique an interest in the world’s most popular sport.
But still, one has to ask what makes things so different now as opposed to 2011 when the women’s team reached the World Cup finale.
After all, viewers were still tuning in especially after Wambach’s miracle goal against Brazil in the semifinals, much less Landon Donovan’s goal the previous year against Algeria in the 2010 Men’s World Cup.
Donovan’s goal inspired a reaction video that has accumulated nearly five million views on YouTube since it published in June 2010. The goal is still widely considered one of the most iconic moments in sports history in the United States.
So is winning all that matters? The conversation regarding soccer’s popularity is just as relevant as it was in 2011 when the women’s team reached the finale against Japan, so why now might girls soccer grow in popularity?
Well maybe winning isn’t all that matters, but it’s certainly a contributing factor as varsity soccer head coach Jason Venable knows from watching the women’s team win the World Cup in 1999.
“We started the soccer program here in 2000 and a lot of that had to do, I’m sure, with the win,” Venable said. “It kind of put everything out there.”
The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team has seemingly been a powerhouse since asserting itself by winning the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991.
But it wasn’t until 1999 when photos of a shirtless Brandi Chastain and players like Mia Hamm dominated newspapers and became idolized by young aspiring players like Mikayla who, like many, looked up to Hamm as a kid.
Also, back then social media was but just a concept.
Today, the World Cup largely benefits from Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms as viewers have an outlet to share their emotions just as easily as reaction videos’ like Donovan’s against Algeria.
“When you look on social media, when everything was happening, there’s people making posts that I never thought would ever watch soccer,” Venable said. “Our principal, Mr. Benskin, he’s real supportive of us, but you didn’t think he’d watch the game. When I was looking, I was like, ‘Really? They’re sitting somewhere watching soccer?’”
Maybe now Venable and players on the Waxahachie girl’s soccer team will see more of that, but instead of on Facebook, in the stands.