The United States Women's National Soccer Team rolled to a Women's World Cup championship by beating Japan 5-2 on Sunday night. The U.S. is the only nation to win three Women's World Cup championships and they are truly the dominant club in the world.
The question is, how did they get here?
It starts with money and opportunity. Title IX, a federal law that went into effect in the 70s, certainly was the starting point. The law, among other issues, made it a requirement that there was equal funding for men's and women's athletics.
The funding was critical. According to Cleveland State University's women's soccer coach, Sonia Curvelo, it led to an explosion of interest in girls youth soccer and high school programs. Those programs were crucial in forming a base for women's soccer.
"It’s just well-structured and when you do things from the bottom up, you’re going to see the results," Curvelo said.
Curvelo also believes those youth and high school programs took their cue on player development and training from the U.S. Soccer National Training Center, which led to a quick advancement of players who are dedicated to the game.
"The level of athletes coming in is completely different than it was 10 years ago or 15 years ago," she said.
It should be of little surprise then that a sport with solid funding, and an infrastructure that had specific ideas on training, led to the continued growth of the sport.
The National Federation of State High School Associations tracks participation at the high school level. According to their numbers, since 1975 among girls, participation in basketball has dropped about 17 percent, while soccer participation has soared about 16 percent.
Add all that up and you start developing better athletes and skilled players. Curvelo believes when that happens, competition drives the sport.
"The atmosphere of having quality players around you makes you great."
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