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U.S. women’s soccer: A sport for White America

By Jay Li Feb. 15, 2023

Kailey Hu Art

Crystal Dunn was often forced to play on all-boys teams when she was younger, experiencing a lack of recognition and support, constantly being referred to as “too small” or “not strong enough” by coaches. Even now, after having competed at two Olympics and being one of her team’s star players she still lacks full recognition.

Dunn’s lack of opportunities and resources as a Black woman in professional soccer is not uncommon. The notion that women of color must work harder to get rewarded a fraction compared to their white peers rings true in many industries—including soccer. Despite their success on the field, Black women in US Women’s soccer continue to face discrimination and inequality in the sport.

Kailey Hu Art

The sport has long had a lack of diversity, being traditionally dominated by rich, white women due to a web of barriers holding back lower-class and marginalized players. Club soccer in the US is often considered a “pay-to-play” sport in contrast with several other countries that offer youth soccer at minimal or free cost.

A lack of government funding or support for youth soccer programs in the US means teams and clubs are forced to rely on player fees to cover expenses. Field maintenance, coaching salaries, equipment, and travel fees make running a youth soccer program a difficult task without government funding, contributing to expenses that can amount to tens of thousands of dollars. The problem plagues many other sports in the US, such as ice hockey. Many youth ice hockey leagues require players to cover costs such as ice rink time and hockey gear. This often creates a barrier for lower-class families—many of whom are marginalized minority groups—from accessing the sport, thus contributing to a lack of diversity and representation.

“The simple answer to pay-to-play culture is increased government funding and support to soccer leagues. Local governments such as Santa Clara County could provide funding for programs that allow lower-income players to develop their talents. Otherwise, potentially very talented players may never see the field. Low-income players have paywalls to competition and this should never be the case for a sport that wishes to be competitive and an equal playing field ,” said Sophomore Arion Habibvand.

Compared to the rest of the world, the US lags behind vastly in youth soccer opportunities due to the structural inaccessibility of club soccer. In various European countries such as England, coaches spend a lot of time in the non-professional scene to seek out new talent. On the contrary, US coaches focus on those who already play professionally, resulting in low exposure for others. Thus, the demographics of the US Women’s National Team has remained predominantly white. For example, in the 2019 World Cup team, out of the 23 players, eight were players of color, including two Black players.

Kailey Hu Art

A study from Ohio University on the top five European soccer leagues indicated a strong relationship between diversity and team performance, suggesting that any amount of diversity is a positive factor that increases creativity and less groupthink.

“The impact of diversity can be felt outside of the field, because a diverse soccer community allows individuals of all backgrounds to feel welcomed and valued. Additionally, diversity in sports can also have a positive impact on society. For instance, promoting inclusivity can help to break down barriers and promote understanding and acceptance of different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs to create a more well-informed community,” said Freshman Max Nguyen.

Various organizations have been created to combat the lack of diversity. The U.S. Soccer Foundation is among those that are pursuing greater accessibility for communities that are traditionally excluded from such opportunities. Since 2008, their Soccer for Success program has been working with 400,000 children—90% of whom are from communities of color—and expects to serve upwards of 100,000 kids this year. Through the program, the founders aim to provide equal opportunities for children of different backgrounds.

Kailey Hu Art


About the Contributors

Jay Li

staff writer

Jay Li is a sophomore at Leland and a writer for The Charger Account. In his free time, he enjoys reading and sleeping.

Kailey Hu

art director

Kailey Hu is a senior at Leland High school and is one of the Art Directors for The Charger Account. During her free time, she likes to spend her time drawing, going on walks, sewing, reading and crafting.

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