“Any time we get to come home and
play in Denver, it’s a really cool thing for
Mallory and I both,” said Horan, whose
family joined her at the ceremony. “To
be in front of my family and friends—
this city is incredible.”
In Los Angeles, pregame and halftime
ceremonies celebrated past stars and in-
spired future ones. During warmups,
the players’ jerseys bore the names of
girls they have helped inspire. The play-
ers then gave the jerseys to the girls be-
The halftime show included a reunion of the 1999 U.S. Women’s World
Cup team, which won the tournament
20 years ago with Brandi Chastain’s
dramatic penalty kick. Almost all of
the 21 players from that team were in
attendance, and other national team
alumnae also attended the match.
“Those are moments you don’t al-
ways get the opportunity to be a part
of or get to showcase,” Buethe said.
“The whole weekend has been a cele-
bration of the ’99s, women’s soccer and
this women’s national team in general.
And it’s gone really well.”
Yet the focus is still on the current
players, who are the biggest draw for
fans. “[Spectators] get to see not just
the No. 1 team in the world, but argu-
ably the best players in the world in a
situation where they are preparing for
something that’s pretty monumental,
with the pressure and stress and atten-
tion that comes with that,” Lalas said.
Investment in the Sport
While the World Cup will have an im-
pact on growing women’s soccer and el-
evating it on the global stage, there still
needs to be support from organizations
such as U.S. Soccer, which Buethe said
has invested $15 million to $20 mil-
lion in the NWSL in the past six years.
The money has gone into paying the
salaries of the national team players as
well as the league’s staff. The hope is to
make the NWSL sustainable on its own
and viable in the long term.
For the 2019 season, the NWSL will
field nine teams, ranging from the Pa-
cific Northwest to the East Coast.
“There are ups and downs in the
league, everyone knows that,” Buethe
said. “But if U.S. Soccer isn’t putting that
investment into the league and leading
the way, this league doesn’t exist. We’re
willing to continue to put money into
the league because it’s the best thing for
women’s soccer. We’re investing a lot,
and we’ll continue to do so.” n
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