Dare to dream: U.S. Women's soccer versus the world

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

The U.S. women's soccer team is a winner on the world's stage, earning them a consistent number one ranking. Yet, with the notable exception of the China-U.S. rivalry, women's soccer and its international team rivalries have been overlooked by the media and, consequently, remain unfamiliar to the wider U.S. audience. In this chapter I discuss the virtual invisibility of U.S. women's soccer and its key rivalries as a significant topic in mediated sport, arguing that this oversight arises from a number of interconnected reasons linked to the ideological significance of sport, of soccer, and women's sport in America. In the United States, both soccer and women's sport have a problematic social, cultural, and ideological existence. Soccer itself sits in rivalry and contrast to American sports and the way sport is "done," while women's sporting presence remains a challenge to sport as a male domain. Consequently, the United States has provided a relatively unique sociopolitical setting for soccer as women's sport, yet one that is ultimately dilemmatic. U.S. women's soccer has been a major international success but a domestic failure, its successes inconsistently celebrated and largely ignored by the sporting media and, hence, traditional sport audiences. This contradictory positioning can be usefully understood if soccer and women's soccer are examined within the system of ideological rivalries that comprise sport and its inextricable links with nation, masculinity, and the media. My intention, therefore, is to outline some of the broader commercial and ideological rivalries that have contributed to both the success and failure of women's soccer in the United States before focusing on how these have shaped the circumstances and mediated constructions of the American team's international rivalries. Outside the United States soccer is commonly known as football, and the U.S. game known as football is relegated to being referred to as American football, linguistically marked as the outsider. In further contrast, across the globe soccer comprises the essence of hegemonic masculinity and embodies the nation as the national sport. Given the global popularity of soccer alongside concerted efforts to popularize it as a men's game in the United States, America's continued resistance to soccer as a top sport remains complex and multifaceted. However, a brief consideration of the significance of sport as highly mediated and crucial for constructing nation and masculinity offers some insights into this resistance, providing an underlying account of the socio-ideological, commercial, and economic rivalry between both U.S. and non-U.S. sports and men's and women's sports. Exploring these different levels of ideological and commercial rivalry contributes to a wider account of how and why the U.S. women's team found the actual and ideological space to develop to a high standard and international acclaim, yet still failed to win the media exposure it needed to succeed in the domestic sphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRivals
Subtitle of host publicationLegendary Matchups That Made Sports History
PublisherUniversity of Arkansas Press
Pages359-381
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)1557289212, 9781557289216
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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  • Cite this

    Mean, L. (2010). Dare to dream: U.S. Women's soccer versus the world. In Rivals: Legendary Matchups That Made Sports History (pp. 359-381). University of Arkansas Press.