This is the opening article for the series “Welcome to American Soccer,” which focuses on providing equal treatment in and access to soccer in the United States. The articles focus on where U.S. Soccer currently stands on a variety of issues and where they need to improve.
After the U.S. Women’s National Team announced their lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, I wrote a piece for this website explaining the importance of the possible outcome and why I believe the U.S. Soccer Federation has an obligation to provide equal treatment for all players. As a non-profit organization, the U.S. Soccer Federation sets out with the goal of promoting soccer “in all its forms” across the United States. They set the tone for soccer across the nation, and in some circles, around the world. What kind of message does it send if they treat women differently than men?
This is a controversial idea. There is a lot of pushback from people who believe that the U.S. Soccer Federation should be focused on revenue and invest more in the teams that have the biggest business built around them. Mostly, this means investing in the senior men’s team and giving them the best treatment, even if it means leaving the women behind.
Equal treatment for the senior women’s team is a controversial idea. But it shouldn’t be. In fact, this should be the bare minimum for a federation that does far less for marginalized communities.
It is true that players for the U.S. Women’s National Team are treated like second-class citizens when compared to their male counterparts. But those who have made it in U.S. Soccer remain a fairly privileged group, regardless of whether they are male or female. While all athletes are not white nor do they all come from wealth, the system is designed for white, privileged people to succeed.
The U.S. Soccer Federation doesn’t do anywhere near enough for communities of color, poor people, disabled people, or transgender people, whether they are fans or athletes. The pay-to-play system means that children with enough money to play for travel teams are the ones who are noticed by the U.S Soccer system, while children who can’t afford that luxury aren’t even considered. Communities of color remain underrepresented at all levels of U.S. Soccer, particularly African-American communities. Disabled athletes and fans run into issues on and off the pitch, and U.S. Soccer needs to be doing more to make sure transgender fans feel welcome in the stands and transgender athletes feel welcome on the pitch.
I’m sure there are other areas I have not hit on here. And I plan to explore each of these areas more in-depth in further articles. But the point I’m really trying to bring home here is that the U.S. women are already fighting from a position of privilege, something they have acknowledged in discussions about this topic. And yet, they receive so much pushback.
If we want a U.S. Soccer Federation that grows soccer in the United States and fields the best teams possible, we need to make sure it is welcoming all aspects of the American community. Whether that’s immigrant communities, people of color, disabled people, transgender people, or any other community, a great U.S. Soccer Federation includes all American people and treats them equally. Sometimes, that means making investments that might not show immediate returns or taking positions that might be perceived as political.
The women’s battle for equal treatment is only the first step. There are so many people to bring into the community, so many people left to fight for.
Let’s get started.