Ever since 1991, the Women's FIFA World Cup has been showcasing the best in women's soccer. Coming off of the Women's World Cup last year—which was as entertaining and exciting throughout as the 1999 edition that included Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and others—women's soccer and the athletes who play it are important in the minds of sports fans stateside.
However, this interest will inevitably wane, just as it has previously, because we are a society that generally has a short attention span with a focus on "what you have done for me lately." This is disappointing because we should be able to embrace women's soccer in a way that puts it on the map.
Before I get to why that should be the case, I want to spotlight two women's soccer players that are not only very attractive, but also amazing soccer players who will be at the top of their game for years to come: Alex Morgan and Hope Solo.
Alex Morgan, 22, was the youngest player on the US team last year, was an NCAA All-American in 2010 while at the University of California, scored a goal in the World Cup semifinal and final matches and scored the winning goal in a World Cup qualifying match against Italy that eventually led to the US clinching the final World Cup berth.
Hope Solo, the much-maligned goalkeeper from the 2007 World Cup, really shined in the 2011 version with two shutouts in group play, a big save in the quarterfinal penalty shootout against Brazil and a brilliant performance in the gold-medal game of the 2008 Olympics against Brazil.
There is a need for women's soccer—just as there is a need for men's soccer—in the US because this sport should not be a once-every-four-years kind of event like the Olympics. There is a high level of interest when the World Cup occurs—even in the US—but it is never really maintained.
A well-developed women's professional soccer league is needed to take advantage of the interest that the World Cup generates, just as the MLS is important to that cause for the men. Because soccer is such a worldwide game, it is important for the sports fans in this country to be willing to embrace it, but there needs to be a vehicle for soccer to be embraced through that broadens the horizons of sports fans in this country. And women's soccer can serve this purpose.
Also, a successful women's professional league provides opportunities for women to play soccer after college, when opportunities for women to play competitive sports professionally are limited. This can lead to a much-needed link between youth soccer and opportunities later in life.
Too often, soccer is played heavily in the early grades, but is given up in favor of basketball and other sports. A successful professional league can bridge soccer throughout the lifespan and keep kids interested in playing with an end goal in mind.
Creating and maintaining positive role models is a great benefit of having professional leagues, whether Charles Barkley feels that way or not. Young girls need role models in sports as well, and women's soccer can provide a place for that to occur, whether it's Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Abby Wambach or any number of athletes.
A professional league comparable to what the men have can be that avenue for girls to look up to people who have made soccer appealing to them.