The U.S. Women’s National Team dominated the World Cup Sunday night with its historic win over Japan and the victory couldn’t be a better example of the importance of Title IX for girls and women in America. In 1972, Title IX legislation was federally mandated in order to prohibit discrimination based on sex in any federally funded education program or activity, particularly at the collegiate level. What many people do not realize is that formal and organized forms of soccer did not really begin for women until after the establishment of Title IX, which generated its spread throughout colleges, and that the national women’s league was not created until 1985. It was not until 2001 that the first professional women’s league made its debut. Every single member of last night’s World Cup squad was born after Title IX’s enacting – a true testament to the power, longevity and importance of the legislation.
Soccer is one of the most played sports for girls with its popularity increasing exponentially after the American women won the 1999 World Cup. In 1974, the US Youth Soccer Association only registered about 100,000 players, while today that number is over three million. With many comparisons being drawn between the ‘99ers and this new 2015 team, and national team mainstay Christie Rampone as a member of both squads, it is hard for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions not to acknowledge their heritage and the legacy that they continue to hold. After the U.S. defeated Germany in the Cup semifinals, Megan Rapinoe was quoted saying, “If we win then everyone can stop comparing us. We’re not them. But we’re here because of them.”
It wasn’t just young girls around the world who were inspired by the 1999 U.S. women’s team. Members of the 2015 team were as well. In 1999, many of the 2015 USWNT were in elementary or high school and dreaming of winning a World Cup. Now they are champions in their own right. What these incredible 23 players represent reaches far beyond last night’s 5-2 final score – they show young girls that they, too, can accomplish a great deal and not only observe change, but ignite it. Role models, like the USWNT, inspire confidence and the experiences these women garner on the field will be carried off the field with them and out into their careers and the rest of their lives.
Just as the 1999 team served as mentors and leaders to a generation of soccer players everywhere, so will our new 2015 champions. At the 1999 World Cup in Pasadena, California, all 32 games were broadcast with an estimated 17.97 million viewers watching the American hosts capture the World Cup title, while this year there were 25.4 million viewers watching as the United States defeated Japan. However, there is always room for improvement and with girls continuing to become inspired by role models, like the US Women’s National Team; hopefully that means an ever-growing increase in girls’ athletics and collegiate scholarships around the world and a greater show of support and respect for these incredible athletes, regardless of gender.
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