The U.S. women's soccer team is one of the best teams in the world in any sport, but they have not been getting the respect they deserve until now.
For over 20 years, the United States has been a powerhouse in women's soccer. The country started to take notice when Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain led the squad to a World Cup victory in 1999, but the interest soon faded, even with Olympic gold medals in 2004 and 2008.
This year's version seems destined to win another gold with a talented team that is one of the deepest in the world. They are ranked No. 1 in the world by FIFA, and narrowly lost on penalty kicks in the last World Cup.
However, this team has something that past teams did not: good looks and the guts to show it off.
It all started with Hope Solo. The goalkeeper posed for the cover of the 2011 ESPN the Magazine Body Issue and the reviews were positive. Plenty of sports fans knew about the talented keeper, but now her popularity grew to a wider audience.
Youngster Alex Morgan continued the trend by wearing only body paint for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. In reality, the 23-year-old was more exposed than Solo.
This year, team leader Abby Wambach joined her teammates and agreed to do the 2012 Body Issue for ESPN the Magazine. The muscular veteran seemed unafraid to show her impressive body to millions of potential readers.
All of this creates more publicity for the London Olympics. Casual fans will now not only be begging the networks to cover the games, but they will actually be able to name a few players and cheer for them specifically.
In an ideal world, fans would tune in to watch great soccer and talented players. Wambach is the second-greatest scorer in U.S. history and the team as a whole has accomplished just about everything the sport can offer.
Unfortunately, stunts like this remain the best way to generate buzz. Solo, Morgan and Wambach have done their part. Now it is up to us to watch.