They say that time heals all. For the Women’s United States Soccer Team the pain from their World Cup Final loss to Japan last summer has not left. In fact, it is the looming ghost that has haunted the US for over a year. No matter how decisive their victories since or how popular the players become, the failure to become World Champions is ever present. Winning will heal all for the US Women, and anything short of a Gold Medal will be a disappointment.
This generation of players is arguably the most popular and well known since the 98’ World Cup Champions; making the stakes even higher for those playing in London. Specifically Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, and Alex Morgan have grown to celebrity status at home; being splattered across commercials, talk shows, and billboards leading up to the 2012 Olympics. Seventeen of the eighteen women on the roster played last summer at the World Cup, making the US favorites to win gold in London. But as last summer’s despair showed us, no team is free from the fall of high expectations.
So what stands in the way of USA winning their third straight gold medal? Brazil, France, Sweden, Germany, and Japan are the obvious challengers to an American “three-peat”, but the US Women’s greatest enemy will be themselves. Like the World Cup–and any international tournament–the pressure at the Olympics will be uncanny. Women’s soccer has struggled to stay relevant financially and in exposure in between tournaments, so the World Cup and Olympics are the premiere moments for teams to perform. Last summer, the US captivated the entire country with their late-game heroics and dynamic performances, but the ending was far from storybook. Luckily, the dramatic tournament gave the players and team a good reputation post World Cup, specifically Alex Morgan’s status on and off the field has rose from prodigy to sporting icon. At the London Olympics fans will know the names and expect the team to shine prominently. Since the U-23 Men failed to qualify for the Olympics this past spring, the women will totally dominate the publicity and media hype from global media. But will the intense heat from the spotlight crack a team who has yet to lose since the 2011 World Cup Final? The squad must rely on their veteran players like Carli Lloyd, Shannon Boxx, Christie Rampone, Wambach, and Solo to finish what they started over a year ago.
Although US Women’s Soccer has a rich and firm foundation established in development, this generation will still be judged on their success. With so much build-up and anticipation for this team, they must focus on winning and nothing less. Endorsements and media attention will soon fade; only champions will be remembered in history. They may have one of the most talented groups in US history, but that will count for nothing in comparison with their former legends–gold gains glory and nothing else.
**** Check out the Olympic Schedule Preview to be prepared for London.