For sports fans, July might just be the worst month of the year.
Yes, there’s plenty to love about July, like summer vacation, festivals and plenty of sunshine. For sports though? The NHL and NBA have all closed up shop for the fiscal year (assuming you don’t put much weight in pro basketball’s Las Vegas summer league). Training camps for NFL teams are still a few weeks away. When MLB’s all-star break begins next week, it will leave a few days devoid of any games involving the major sports.
That void is where the World Cup comes in. Even for the average sports fan, the quadrennial soccer tournament (the men’s tournament was held last summer) can provide highlights and discussions. At worst, it means ESPN has to take a few minutes away from discussing LeBron James, NBA free agency and an NFL season still two months away.
Even the most anti-soccer person can agree that’s probably a good thing, right?
Which is why what the United States’ women’s national team has been able to consistently accomplish in the last 20 years is all the more remarkable. When eager sports fans’ eyes are searching for something, anything, to watch — your July sports-viewing options besides baseball really stretch the definition of sports when things like the hot dog eating contest are broadcast live — the American women have consistently stepped up to the plate.
And not only do they come to bat, they hit it out of the park. While the American men’s team failed to even qualify for last summer’s World Cup, the U.S. women are the defending champions, ranked No. 1 in the world and have taken this summer’s tournament in France by storm.
They’re brash, like when players celebrate every goal, no matter the scoreline.
They’re outspoken, like when star Megan Rapinoe drew the wrath of President Donald Trump and his followers and has had her patriotism questioned after saying she wouldn’t visit the White House.
They’re trailblazers, considering the team is suing the overarching U.S. Soccer for gender discrimination and equal pay, one World Cup cycle after
They’re fine acknowledging how good they are, like when veteran defender and Penn State graduate Ali Krieger told the New York Times the deep American side has the best and second-best team in the world.
All told, the defending World Cup champions are back in the title game for the third straight tournament after captain Alex Morgan scored the game-winner and celebrated by mimicking like she was sipping tea in the 2-1 victory over England. On Sunday morning, the American women return to France to face the Netherlands for the title.
When they do take the field, some back home will be rooting for their demise. Others, however, might not care a lick about soccer but will jump at the chance to cheer on America on a global stage.
Maybe you don’t like their politics. Maybe the team celebrating goals in a 13-0 win against Thailand in the opener rubbed people the wrong way. Maybe you’re just not that into soccer.
The American team doesn’t care. They’ve thrust themselves into the spotlight and have consistently backed it up on the field with results.
Sunday will be no different, and that’s the reason the team should be celebrated.