As World Cup fever sweeps the country, soccer star Hope Solo is hoping to make some drastic changes in how the sport is played — and regulated — in the U.S.
“Soccer in America has become the rich white kid’s sport,” Solo, the former goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s national team, said on the latest episode of the Women Rule podcast.
She ticked off a list of grievances against the U.S. Soccer Federation, the sport’s governing body, saying the costs it imposes to play in soccer clubs have “alienated” Latino, black and rural communities. From expensive coaching licenses to rising club fees, Solo maintained that barriers to participation have contributed to a lack of talent at the highest levels of the game.
“U.S. Soccer should be helping coaches get their licenses, should be helping youth players play on different clubs,” she said. “It’s sad. That’s why soccer in America is just a mess right now.”
“That is why we are not one of the best countries in the world on the men’s side — because we have alienated so many people,” she said, referring to the failure of the U.S. men’s team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Solo’s contract with U.S. Soccer was terminated after the 2016 Rio Olympics following comments she made deriding the Swedish national team — not the first time she drew controversy during her playing career — and she lost a bid this year to become USSF president.
But the goalie is continuing to fight for improvements to the sport on Capitol Hill. Her hope: some oversight from Congress over the federation, a nonprofit organization. While visiting Washington, Solo met with lawmakers to discuss the issue further.
“In this day and age, sports has become really political. There’s a lot of money within American football, within football, within every sport,” she said. “It’s really important to the [Senate] Commerce Committee, both Democrats, Republicans. … We need to right the ship.”