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Why is Women's Soccer in America So Successful?

The women's soccer team of America has become world champion four times since the first Women's World Cup in 1991. How is it that women's soccer in America is so successful? Today, we delve deeper into the roots of women's soccer in the United States.

Written by

Lars Blenckers

To answer the question of why women's soccer in America is so successful, we will explore the following facets:

  • Why is women's soccer so popular?
  • Why do more girls play soccer in America than boys?
  • What role does college soccer play in talent development?
  • What role do international players play?

Why is women's soccer so popular in America?

Nowhere in the world is women's soccer as popular as in America. But where does this come from? What is Title IX, and why do so many girls play soccer?

Title IX

Title IX is a law enacted in 1972 in America. This law aims to prohibit gender discrimination in government-funded educational programs. This meant that schools receiving government funds had to provide access to women's sports.

The result of Title IX

Before the implementation of this law in 1971, only 700 girls played soccer in high schools. Twenty years later, in 1991, after the enactment of the law, a whopping 120,000 girls played soccer in high school. Nowadays, over 390,000 girls play soccer at the high school level, indicating the significant impact of this legislation.

You can imagine that the level of soccer and its popularity soar when more and more girls play soccer in America. It's essentially an upward spiral. The more girls play, the higher the level becomes, and the more popular the sport gets, leading more girls to play again.

Compared to other countries

While America implemented a law to encourage women's soccer, many other countries were still suppressing or discouraging women's soccer.

Today, we see that women's soccer is becoming increasingly popular in many countries. Many major professional clubs have women's teams, and stadiums are usually full during international matches and tournaments. This is an interesting development that only enhances the global level of women's soccer.

U.S. Women's National Soccer Team Winning Another World Cup
U.S. Women's National Soccer Team

The role of College Soccer in women's soccer in America

College Soccer plays a crucial role in the development and progress of women's soccer in America.

In many other countries, talented players drop out because they want to pursue their studies. In America, players can continue to play at a high level for a university while also pursuing their studies.

With the help of scholarships, these costs are also reimbursed.

Talent progression and development

We've seen that over 390,000 girls play soccer in high school. More than 10% of these players then transition to college soccer. As mentioned earlier, there are different levels at the college level.

The chance for a female soccer player to transition to college is about three times higher than that for a male soccer player. There are three reasons for this:

  1. Due to Title IX, there are more women's soccer teams at universities than men's.
  2. There are still more boys playing soccer in high school than girls (16% more boys).
  3. There is less international competition among women than among men in college soccer.

The level in college is also incredibly high for women's soccer. This means that female players, after high school, have the opportunity to continue playing at a high level while also completing their studies. This increases the chances of eventually transitioning to professional soccer or the national soccer team.

Soccer scholarships for women

Scholarships for female soccer players make this progression even more accessible. While the costs of studying in America are very high, scholarships provide the opportunity to minimize these costs for talented players.

Additionally, the limits set by universities are higher for women, allowing them to offer more scholarships. This makes college soccer even more accessible for girls than for boys.

Facilities

Women's soccer teams at universities in the United States benefit not only from accessible progression to college soccer and, therefore, professional soccer but also from access to excellent facilities.

These top facilities play an essential role in raising the level of women's soccer at the university level and contribute to the overall development of the sport.

They not only provide an ideal environment for talent development but also promote enthusiasm and engagement among students in women's soccer at universities, contributing to the ongoing success of the sport at national and international levels.

College Soccer Facility Tour
College Soccer Facility Tour

International players in College Soccer

The involvement of international players in American college soccer significantly contributes to raising the level of the sport.

These international student-athletes bring not only diversity and different playing styles to the field but also contribute to the global appeal of women's soccer in the United States.

Why international players choose America

Many international players deliberately choose American college soccer because of excellent facilities, high-quality coaching, and the competitive environment that promotes their individual growth. This is evident in the number of players with college experience in the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, where 137 players with NCAA experience participated.

The allure of the high level, popularity, and developmental opportunities in women's college soccer contributes to the global influence of the sport, benefiting both American and international players in this dynamic exchange.

Dutch players in College Soccer

Currently, there are a staggering 88 Dutch female soccer players in America at the college level, playing at various levels.

Below is an overview of where they are located:

Dutch Soccer Players In College Soccer

Prominent Dutch female soccer players who played college soccer

Currently, 88 Dutch players are playing in America. But in the past, other (now well-known) names have also played in America at the college level. Here's a brief overview.

Merel van Dongen

Merel played for the University of Alabama from 2012 to 2014. Afterward, she returned to the Netherlands to play for Ajax. In 2015, she was selected for the Dutch national team and has since earned 51 caps. She currently plays for Atlético Madrid.

Sarina Wiegman

The successful coach made a name for herself in 1989 as a midfielder at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. Once back in the Netherlands, she played for various clubs but achieved real success as the coach of the Dutch women's national team, winning the 2017 European Championship. She is currently the coach of the England women's national team, where she won the Olympics and the European Championship.

Marit Auée

Marit recently made her debut in the Dutch national team against England. In 2020, the defender made a brief move to Dallas Baptist University in Texas before returning to PEC Zwolle. She currently plays for FC Twente, the current champions of the Netherlands.

Conclusion

Now the question remains: Why is women’s soccer in America so good? 

It has to do with several factors:

  1. The legislation of Title IX
  2. The progression from high school to college soccer
  3. Facilities in college soccer and the impact of international players
  4. The sport's popularity nowadays attracts more talent

All these elements together form a soccer culture that not only makes the sport popular but also constantly elevates the level, resulting in the impressive success of American women's soccer at the national and international levels.

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