COMMENTARY: Women’s soccer in US lacks diversity

DC Metros’ midfielder Sari Finn dribbles during a Washington Area Girls Soccer (WAGS) League U-10 championship match

The beginning of organized Women’s soccer in the US in the late 1970’s was partly due an outgrowth of the 1972 legislation mandating gender equity in education.

Title IX of these amendments mandated equal access and equal spending on athletic programs at colleges. But the creation and proliferation of women’s soccer in the U.S involved many stakeholders.

College soccer, the youth programs, amateur clubs, the national team, tournament success, the US Open Cup, farm clubs and finally a professional league.

The first national women’s league was not launch until 1995, and it was not until 2001 that the first professional women’s league made its debut. Today it is estimated that about 40% of soccer players (7.2 million) in the US women and girls. After two World Cup titles and Olympic gold and silver medals, the US almost dominates women’s soccer.

But the “politics of soccer” is not working for every American girl who wants to play the game at a higher and organized level.  U.S. soccer targets the middle class because it’s a pay-to-play system. There is money to be made- Transportation, fields, coaching, travel tournaments and camps.   Because of this financial barrier, American soccer has remained mainly a white suburban sport with a rich and privileged kid image. There’s no incentive for coaches and clubs to bring the game to the inner city, because poor people can’t afford to play.

According to coach Irvine Smalls of the FC Harlem Lions in N.Y City, ‘For soccer to grow in African-American communities, it needs an ambassador that kids connect with. The recently concluded Woman’s World Cup could have provided that opportunity, but none of the African-American players managed to get their names on the score sheet’.

But the fabulous U.S squad which lost on penalty kicks to Japan in the finals did not look like America. As I watch the championship game with my two soccer playing daughters, my feelings were bittersweet. Not only because of the defeat, but in a roster of 21 players there were only two Latinas and no Blacks or Asians. In the team picture of bright, young, exuberant and inspiring faces, the hues and shades of an increasingly multicultural America were quite limited.  There was something deeply amiss in the lack of diversity and pigmentation on the team.

Given soccer’s popularity, particularly in the Latino community, the lack of diversity cannot be excused.   By limiting the talent pool, is it any coincidence the United States has not completely dominated the world of women’s soccer?  But colleges, the U.S. soccer teams, and pro-soccer farm systems are bypassing the massive number of female and male players of color in soccer.  How it is that diversity in this sport has been whitewashed?

To increase the diversity of the U.S. teams—not only be truly America’s teams, but to ensure that U.S.  remains competitive—an all-out diversity effort must be launched. Not only for the sake of these marginalized communities, but also for sustained vitality of this great sport. First, more minority children must be enrolled in the largest soccer youth programs. Membership and tournament fees are out of reach for many working-class and poor minority families. The youth leagues must institute more scholarships and sliding-scale fees to accommodate players from lower socio-economic communities.

Also relationships and understanding by the coaches far beyond the fields must also be better understood. Many coaches do not know how to reconcile the differing expectations from minority parents when practice schedules conflict with work schedules at the family small store or awkward work schedules such as overtime.  The “no practice, no play” principle kills any nascent enthusiasm among working-class and immigrant kids and parents. The barriers to entry in the more competitive youth travel leagues are even higher. Exorbitant travel and tournament fees and faraway road games that assume parents have cars and free weekends to accompany their kids.

But the institutions that truly have no excuse for the lack of diversity on their soccer teams are colleges .Title IX, which demanded the playing field be evened out for collegiate women in terms of budgets, facilities and scholarships, is the No. 1 reason women’s sports in the U.S. have risen to the world-class caliber. But as in corporate America, women’s gains in soccer have unfortunately ended up being white women’s’ gains, with Black, Latina, Asian, and Native American women conspicuously absent as beneficiaries of powerfully important gender-diversity programs.

To break through, U.S. Soccer, college soccer scouts and parents must shift their assumptions and behaviors. Scouts need to get comfortable going into the barrio and inner-city schools and to suburbs dominated by immigrants and minorites, just as American football and basketball scouts started doing a generation ago. U.S. Soccer can up the ante by insisting that its scouts and coaches source greater diversity for players considered to be called on to wear the U.S. uniform.

Copyright 2012 Dominica News Online, DURAVISION INC. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

Disclaimer: The comments posted do not necessarily reflect the views of and its parent company or any individual staff member. All comments are posted subject to approval by We never censor based on political or ideological points of view, but we do try to maintain a sensible balance between free speech and responsible moderating.

We will delete comments that:

  • contain any material which violates or infringes the rights of any person, are defamatory or harassing or are purely ad hominem attacks
  • a reasonable person would consider abusive or profane
  • contain material which violates or encourages others to violate any applicable law
  • promote prejudice or prejudicial hatred of any kind
  • refer to people arrested or charged with a crime as though they had been found guilty
  • contain links to "chain letters", pornographic or obscene movies or graphic images
  • are off-topic and/or excessively long

See our full comment/user policy/agreement.


  1. Nudibranch
    September 25, 2011

    Whatever happened to AYSO?

    I coached for 5 years.We had kids of all colours, creeds, ability and sizes.

    It’s called FOOOTBALL, you kick it with your feet.

  2. at
    September 25, 2011

    I share the same feeling and did so during the world cup. The us should learn from the British who themselves had oppressed black athletes particularly soccer players. Many of us will remember
    John Barnes who had beenthe number one player in English soccer yet he was denied a spot on the world cup team. When he was given the only chance with 15 minutes remaining in a do or die game john Barnes not only exposed the English racism but ha also showed the world what the English team could have been.
    One very critical point made by Dr dinner is the fact that the us women soccer dominance will be short love until diversity is incorporated into the us soccer program.
    I must also note to that just last year the us men’s team got humiliated because the coach decided for some reason to go milk.

  3. johnnie boy
    September 25, 2011


    • mouth of the south
      September 26, 2011

      u must stop saying or talking on things u don’t know about…. do u know what is second class citizen… that’ how most blacks in the inner cities are treated…. all the educational opportunities in extracurricular activities are held in the suburban areas… yes blacks love basketball etc but this is what u’ll see in every school yard in brooklyn for example… when the last time u heard or seen a skating rink for ice hockey in the inner cities??? i waiting… *crickets* *crickets*… i wasted my time waiting cause u can’t give an answer not cause of your fault but bcuz it don’t exist… these ‘white’ sports are reserved for their school districts… on linden boulevard park in b.k got lots of black youths playing soccer… in fact it have different teams playing men and women… so to think blacks are not interested is clearly exposing your ignorance… sheesh.. blacks weren’t allowed near a golf course now we run this… tiger woods.. vijay singh (black indian nonetheless)… not forgetting tennis… serena and venus run that to.. even if they may not be #1… they bring the #1 ratings… and as soon they put an ice hockey rink in the hood… we taking over that sheesh to… wait till u see lebron on skates… if i may quote chris rock… ‘he don’t even need a stick… dude will smack the put with his d*ck” lol

      • September 26, 2011

        MOS I agree with you that you only see basketball courts in brooklyn for example. You hardly see any tennis courts or any soccer fields but there are loads of basketball courts. It’s like basketball is a hood or ghetto sport

    • September 26, 2011

      This comment is so idiotic. White people do play basketball,football and some do rap so what is your basis for saying they don’t want to do anything white people do?

  4. mouth of the south
    September 25, 2011

    though i understand where the writer’s coming from and this should be addressed.. i think it would be better or more effective if mr finn pay u.s $10000 and publish this in the new york times… daily news.. new york post.. sports illustrated…. get the drift… i don’t think this can do anything to post it to dno… cause it’s only purpose would be to give those with anti-american philosophy more ammo to come out and say all negatives

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

:) :-D :wink: :( 8-O :lol: :-| :cry: 8) :-? :-P :-x :?: :oops: :twisted: :mrgreen: more »

 characters available