By Chloe Gruesbeck
Unless you have fallen into a well, you probably are aware that the U.S. women’s soccer team won the World Cup Sunday.
In a stunning display of athleticism and power, the team soundly defeated Japan 5-2. But something was missing.
The U.S. featured no women of color on the field or on the coaching staff for the entirety of the game. And this homogenous lineup wasn’t a coincidence. Out of 23 players, only two African-American players and one Hispanic-American are on the roster.
The diversity of America fails to be reflected on the women’s national team.
This phenomenon isn’t intentional. The U.S. Soccer Federation isn’t barring minorities from minorities from the team, the number of minorities is just slim at the highest level. This extends to coaching as well. The UFC College of Business Administration found that out of 20 MLS teams, only two are led by head coaches who are minorities.
Randy Sears, a coach for a club soccer team in Chapel Hill, attributes this deficit to the socioeconomic gap.
“It starts at the youngest levels, minorities typically aren’t able to afford the high club fees that come with club soccer,” Sears said. “Clubs team have better coaching and facilities that they are not gaining access to. It is all about economics. It costs lots of money to foster talent.”
Sears suggests that the gap can be lessened through club teams offering more scholarships for young minority players, and holding more community events such as tournaments that receive a more diverse participation.
“Not many kids that are minorities get into top soccer programs,” Sears said. “By getting more of these kids in here, you can get a larger talent pool that would be a much more interesting mix.”
Increasing the number of scholarships given out would allow many more players to participate who cannot afford a club’s hefty fees. Soccer player Ellie Saska, 17, said those costs can become burdensome.
“One club team I played on, the uniforms alone cost $200,” Saska said. “We usually replaced those uniforms every other year. And then there are club fees which were around $3,000, if I remember correctly. The truth of the matter is it costs a lot.”
In America, soccer is most popular in the club leagues. That is where scouts are searching for talented young players who they hope to enroll in programs such as traveling private teams, Olympic Development, or even college teams.
Paul Cuadros, investigative journalist and soccer coach, discusses the topic in his book A Home on the Field.
“Soccer has become a country-club sport in the United States, played in suburbia, and it limits access from other parts of society,” Cuadros writes. “If you were not on a prominent club team, your chances for an athletic scholarship at a university were slim…. This is one of the main problems with the sport in America today, that the unwillingness to open the game to other economic stratospheres.”
Saska agrees that “opening” the game to more diverse participation would create a more productive environment.
“[Diversity] is key to create a more well rounded team.” Saska said. “I have actually enjoyed playing on recreation teams more because it is a lot more interesting, in my opinion. Everyone has different styles of play and by combining those you create a better, solid product.”
Many choose to describe America as a “melting pot” or “salad bowl” of diversity, with a plethora of different races joining together to create one united front. Its money bears the Latin phrase E pluribus unum which translates to “out of many, one.” By supporting more talented minority soccer players on the club level, the photo op for the next world cup photo could more closely resemble the values America’s cherish so highly.