By Eric Bilach
The following piece is featured in the September 2019 edition of The Campus.
July 7, 2019 now marks a monumental date not just in American sports, but in women’s history as well. By a score of 2 to nil, the United States women’s national soccer team (USWNT) toppled the Netherlands to become back-to-back World Cup champions, securing their fourth title in the process. Reception for the USWNT’s victory has been immense, propelling female fortitude and accomplishment to the forefront of national attention.
With what is an inspirational win for many, the USWNT has again demonstrated that gender holds zero bearing over the significance of a competitive sporting event. For male and female athletes alike, the stakes of games such as these are just as high, the intensity just as palpable, and the outcomes just as noteworthy.
With regards to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the outcome is of particular note as it holds the potential to extend far beyond the realm of professional sports. As Christen Press, a striker for the USWNT, said, “We got to play knowing that we weren’t playing just for soccer… we were actually playing for cultural change and women everywhere.”
Following the conclusion of the 2019 World Cup, the question that has cropped up all around campus is: “Will this national interest in women’s sports carry over to the CCNY women’s soccer team?”
In speaking on this issue with Stephanie Nunez, a junior at CCNY, she explained that the USWNT’s victory has stimulated her interest in the CCNY women’s soccer team. She noted, “Knowing that achievements [such as winning a championship] are possible for our Lady Beavers—a team with such determination and passion for the sport—makes me want to do my best to keep up with their season and show my support every step of the way.”
Nunez encourages her fellow CCNY students to take an interest in the happenings of the women’s soccer team. On the subject of low attendance figures at their home games, Nunez commented, “It’s very unfortunate to learn that the team attracts less attention due to outdated gender standards. But the [USWNT’s victory] is a great start for them to receive the credit and appreciation they deserve. The support system these women will gather along the way will work to defy any biases that some may hold against them before they even have a chance to see them shine.”
This year’s attendance will show if Nunez’s thoughts on game turn out were at all affected by the wide publicity the USWNT has garnered. Susan Aracena, a senior co-captain of women’s soccer team, holds out hope on this idea becoming a reality. Though the prospect of the USWNT’s victory having a direct impact on campus-wide recognition of the women’s soccer team is one that excites her, Susan admits, “It’s ultimately on us to draw fans at home games through our play.”
When asked if the team had any plans to capitalize on the recent success of the 2019 World Cup, Susan conceded that the beginning of this upcoming preseason (August 18th) might be too far removed from the conclusion of the championship game to be benefitted from. In spite of this, Susan added, “There is a specific energy you receive from winning the World Cup. We will bring that energy to the pitch this season.”
While the impact that the USWNT’s victory will have on Women’s Soccer remains uncertain, Susan is concentrating on the bigger picture. For her, the World Cup represents far more than “just winning a trophy”—it is a global triumph for unity, equality, and strength.
“[USWNT players], such as Amy Wambach and Megan Rapinoe, who use their platforms to help raise awareness about certain issues, like the wage gap and LGBT+ rights, are inspirations to all women and soccer players around the world,” Susan remarked.
No matter the empirical change in attendance for women’s soccer, at the collegiate and professional level, the USWNT’s recent win has sparked a national conversation on the difference between the perception of women and men’s sports. It proposed the possibility that if interest for Women’s Soccer is to grow at CCNY, a share of the focus might need to be on who and what our valiant women athletes are playing for each and every outing.