Winning the Women's World Cup in July, a dramatic Victory Tour that saw games cancelled due to both opponents pulling out and players refusing to play on turf, an unexpected loss to China, retirements, unexpected (at least to the WoSo world) pregnancies, getting sued by the U.S. Soccer Federation, and many of the World Cup Champions having their personal home addresses and email addresses shared with the world, it's been a busy 6 1/2 months for the United States Women's National Team to say the least.
But let's back up to the whole getting sued part.
This week U.S. Soccer confirmed they had filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Women's National Team over ongoing labor issues, namely disputes around playing surfaces. The lawsuit does not seek damages, instead it seeks to provide reassurance to the Federation that the players will not strike. Oh, and the documents were filed February 3rd, 2016, which just so happened to be National Girls & Women in Sports Day.
Because nothing says you value your girls and women's teams like suing them, right? As if the timing wasn't bad enough, within the original documents, which were posted online for all to read, were player's home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. Because nothing says you value your player's safety like releasing their information to potential stalkers and crazed fans.
Of course, as most have heard or read by now, the heart of the lawsuit revolves around the Collective Bargaining Agreement which expired in 2012, a Memorandum of Understanding from 2013 and a lawyer's mention of the players striking. Rather than to recap all that, let's discuss why the players will not strike and why, baring some breakdown of epic proportions, the United States will indeed field a first-string women's team for Rio.
- It's all grass: While the turf inequality between the award-winning women's team and the struggling men's team is glaringly obvious, the Olympic Qualifiers will be held on grass. After the Hawaii fiasco, U.S. Soccer stated all games prior to Rio would be played on grass. The reason the team refused to play in Hawaii was because of poor field conditions. This is expected to be a non-issue at BBVA Compass Stadium (unless the sprinklers come on), Toyota Stadium and the Rio stadiums.
- The SheBelieves Cup: While the SheBelieves Cup has seen its fair share of jokes and memes mocking its name on the Internet, the fact remains the tournament will be a money-maker for U.S. Soccer. With Germany, France and England involved fans will come out expecting to see a good game of actual soccer, not a 5-0 lop-sided game they were treated to most of the Victory Tour. Theoretically more fans will buy tickets to see the games, buy t-shirts and jerseys and more money will go into U.S. Soccer's pockets. (Let's remember here that, worldwide, generally men's soccer teams bring in more money than the women's, therefore all purchases for these games are important. Frankly, it's hard to argue for more money to match that of your male counterparts when they're bringing in more money overall to the sport's organization.)
- Um, its Olympic Qualifiers: Really not a lot to be said here. When it comes down to it, I would bet someone a Chipotle burrito that the players would show up for Qualifiers even if the Federation stopped holding up their end of the Memo of Understanding (something highly unlikely to happen). Because this is the defending-Gold medalists AND the World Cup Champions we're discussing here. Imagine the talk if they failed to show up. Then imagine the talk if, when they failed to show up, the Final in Houston was between their Northern and Southern neighbors--who would be going to Rio. There's pride at stake here. Pride and bragging rights that cover an entire continent.
- Provided they get through #2, dude, its the Olympics: No one is crazy enough to think the players would strike before going to Rio, especially after qualifying. Not only would that be a black eye for the entire Nation, one has to question how that would impact the player's marketability in overseas leagues or at home. I'm not sure anyone sees the players going through with a strike during such a time; it could very possibly be career-ending, especially for the younger players. Also? The Olympics are on grass, and another medal means more money.