Monday, June 6, 2011

HIO: Soft and Boring

Soft and boring. Two words society has brandished upon women's sports. These stereotypes have plagued the aspiration of many to close the gap between men's and women's sports.

Take for example the one sport I know best, soccer. The US Men's National Team (USMNT) is prepping for the Gold Cup, the premier tournament between North American and Caribbean nations. Meanwhile, the US Women's National Team (USWNT) is prepping for this month's World Cup in Germany, the premier tournament in the world in women's soccer.

Both the USMNT and the USWNT played friendlies this past weekend as tune-ups for their respective tournaments. On Saturday, the men faced and lost to the top team in the world and reigning world champions, Spain. On Sunday, the women took on and beat a Mexican side that beat them mere months ago to force the USWNT to play more games to qualify for the World Cup.

Saturday's fixture between the USMNT and Spain drew 64,121 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA. The game attracted the largest crowd in U.S. Soccer history in the New England Area. Meanwhile, Sunday's fixture between the USWNT and Mexico drew just 5,852 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ.

While the upcoming Gold Cup tournament for the men is big for the team and U.S. Soccer, it is nothing compared to this month's Women's World Cup for the women. That begs the question, why the disparage between the games this past weekend?

Okay, the men took on Spain, the number one team in the world. Fernando Torres, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos were all on the pitch on Saturday afternoon in sunny Foxborough. Though, the women are on the precipice of a World Cup! Remember the hype from the men's World Cup in South Africa last summer? Did you even know the the Women's World Cup is this summer? My point exactly.

Regardless, the good news is that World Cup in Germany is expected to draw attendance numbers close to the 1999 tournament in the United States. Already, the opening match between Germany and Canada on June 26 is already sold out. The match will be held in Berlin's Olympiastadion, of 70,000 capacity.

Clearly, the disparage exists between men's and women's soccer at the national team level in the United States. To close the gap, let's hope the USWNT can brush off their poor form as of late and win the World Cup. In a perfect world, the win would trigger the same (if not more) national support that the 1999 World Cup win and also boost awareness and attendance of Women's Professional Soccer.

Time will tell. Let's hope that can lessen the disparage between men's and women's soccer, and sports in general. I just wish for a day when soft and boring are labels of the past.

In addition to serving as President of the Sport Management Student Union (SMTSU), Kevin Giordano is a sophomore Sport Management major at Drexel University with industry experience working in men's and women's professional soccer and collegiate athletics. To contact or connect with Kevin, you can follow him on Twitter (@KevinGiordano) or connect with him here on LinkedIn.

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