Women's World Cup: What Happened to the Spirit of '99?

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I'm watching wistfully too, but my melancholy has nothing to do with the precipitous decline of American hegemony. I'll be mourning the missed opportunity that was the '99 World Cup.

That event was lightning in a bottle for those who wanted to expand women's soccer in the U.S. An American squad on its home soil featuring the most famous women's soccer player of all time (Mia Hamm) went undefeated, punctuated by an dramatic final against China that ended in the must-see-TV of a shootout which had an iconic moment (Brianna Scurry's save) and a once-in-a-lifetime iconic moment (Chastain's winning kick + sports bra-bearing celebration). A recent ESPN video piece said that by some measures girls' participation in soccer quadrupled after the World Cup.

But the expected commercial success was never borne out, as Patrick notes. The WUSA and WPS have been financial failures even though they had the same celebrities whom we went gaga over in '99. To this day the most successful marketing campaign featuring a women's soccer player is Hamm's "anything you can do I can do better" commercials with Michael Jordan.

It's not like the U.S. women haven't duplicated their World Cup success—they won gold at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. And there's a generation full of people like Emma that idolized the '99 squad and want to see women's pro soccer succeed here. So Hampton, what will it take for women's soccer to gain some commercial success in the U.S. outside of the national team?

–Jake

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Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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