The American football community – and that is the football played worldwide using the feet, the one with a World Cup and no Super Bowl – is often the butt of many jokes.
We call the game soccer, for starters. Our league cannot compare to the best in the world, even if our commentators and pundits sometimes like to think otherwise. Hell, the MLS used to take penalties from halfway, something which always seems to be revived on social media every few months.
Yes, we’re different in many ways. But sometimes that difference is far and away for the best.
I’m talking about the name of our men’s national team. USMNT: United States Men’s National Team.
It may seem quite uninteresting at first, but let me now relay the name of our women’s national team. USWNT: United States Women’s National Team.
Did you catch it? Let me, just for contrast, share you the names of England’s men’s and women’s teams.
Men’s: England National Football Team. Women’s: England National Women’s Football Team.
Get it now?
This is a trend found all over national sports teams, in and out of soccer/football. The men’s team is just the “national team,” and the women’s team requires the “women’s” addendum. Sure, it’s probably a relic from the early days of the sport in the 1800s, when only men played the sport at the highest levels, and there was only one national team, regardless of gender. But now, it implies that, while the men’s team represents all of the nation, the women’s team needs clarifying that no, this isn’t the default (that being the men’s team), this is that other team.
Now, I’m not going to claim that the U.S. has it all figured out. Our top professional leagues are called Major League Soccer (men) and the National Women’s Soccer League (women, duh).
And that’s not even getting into the incredible disparities in pay or media coverage, or the other myriad of ingrained sexism that propagates through sport in general.
These various discriminations are being tackled, but only at an unacceptably slow pace. For example, in July 2017, a professional/semiprofessional football team announced they would pay men and women players the same for the first time (link).
Clearly, there’s so so so much more that needs to be done to bridge the gap between men’s and women’s football, and for that matter, men’s and women’s sport in general.
But at least the U.S. can claim a bit of soccer notoriety.