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July 20, 2022 — Soccer … and then everyone else

The U.S. women’s soccer team this week dispatched with all of the preliminaries and drama, winning the CONCACAF W championship 1-0 over Canada in the final. Over the course of the tournament, the States won outright berths to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.

And gave up no goals in the process.

As we were discussing a few days ago, the United States has, in women’s team sports, developed some pretty intense rivalries with Canadian national sides.

But within CONCACAF competition, the United States has not yielded a goal in any confederation tournament in more than 12 years. It’s been complete and utter dominance on the part of the Stars and Stripes.

Which brings up a question: what has led to this young U.S. women’s national soccer team’s dominance now, and possibly for years to come with young stars like Midge Purce, Caterina Macario, Sophia Smith, Sofia Huerta, and Mallory Pugh?

Let’s face it: many of these players have chosen soccer over other athletic pursuits — some much earlier than others. Indeed, I’d wager that you can’t find a player in the greater player pool in the U.S. women’s national soccer team who was a multi-sport athlete in high school. Indeed, most of the current players are products of the year-round “pay to play” system.

Want some examples? Pugh gave up a scholarship at UCLA to play pro soccer with the Washington Spirit. Lindsey Horan did not play with her high school team, instead playing with the Colorado Rush club side, then spurning an offer from the University of North Carolina to play with Paris-Saint Germain.

There are lots more young female soccer players who are turning pro as early as age 15 to join NWSL club sides. Olivia Moultrie joined up with the Portland Thorns at that age. A couple of weeks ago, the San Diego Wave announced the signing of 17-year-old Jaedyn Shaw.

It seems to me that this new (and younger) third wave of women’s soccer talent is coming into being at a time when clubs and sponsors around the world are clamoring for their services. And I think this is helping shrink the player pool for other athletic pursuits.

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