Women's Soccer Deserves Better

J.P. Pelzman
Date Published: 

The competition was world-class. Too bad the setting was anything but that.

When the U.S. national women's soccer team made a three-game stop on Long Island for the CONCACAF Tournament earlier this month, they played on a field of non-regulation width that was filled with brown patches.

The goalposts were metal - they're supposed to be wooden. The stadium seated only 1,500 and had bleachers on one side.

However, U.S. national team coach Anson Dorrance and his players seemed reluctant to criticize the conditions at North Hempstead Town Park in New Hyde Park. "I'm sure the local organizers did their best to find a suitable environment," Dorrance said. However, Canadian coach Sylvie Beliveau wasn't so polite. She called it "the worst field conditions I've seen for international competition. If this is how we treat women's soccer, we'll never grow."

Precisely. Less than a year to go before the U.S. hosts soccer's biggest event, the World Cup, and this is the kind of "showcase" we provide for the defending world champions of women's soccer?

Don't blame the tournament hosts, the Eastern New York Senior Soccer Association. Blame CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football).

The tournament originally was scheduled to be held in Haiti, but CONCACAF pulled the tournament when it became evident that financially strapped country couldn't afford to host.

So CONCACAF turned to Long Island, which unfortunately doesn't have many fields suitable for international soccer. The best, most spacious facility, Hofstra Stadium, couldn't be used because of its artificial turf. Adelphi's Stiles Field has no lights. Mitchel Park's field was
being reseeded by Nassau County. And so on and so on . . .

The bottom line is that CONCACAF shouldn't have awarded the tournament to Long Island. "We were not too happy with the condition of the field," said CONCACAF president Jack Warner. "[But] there was no other alternative but to use that locality."

Another drawback was the limited seating. There were capacity crowds for two of the United States' three games, with the exception of its 9-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago in a downpour. Certainly, the crowds could have been larger if more people could have been accommodated. The team already has drawn crowds this season of 6,120 at Mansfield, Ohio,
and 5,532 at Atlanta.

So the interest is there, at least for the national team. But women's soccer still faces other problems. "We don't have a competitive league to play in," said national team forward Mia Hamm, who was the college player of the year at North Carolina last year. "We can only go so far without one."

Also, while the men's national team has had a contract with SportsChannel America for several years, to date there have been no televised matches for the women's team.

"I'd like to see us on TV," said team captain Michelle Akers-Stahl. "We do believe there is interest," said Fred Jackson, who is vice president of client services for U.S. Soccer's marketing agent, Soccer USA Partners. Jackson said there aren't any plans in the works because the team's 1994 schedule hasn't been drawn up.

Jackson added his group's figures show "approximately 36 percent of the girls in the U.S. are playing some sort of youth soccer."

It is hoped that by the time those girlsare eligible to play for the national team, things will be better. The sport deserves better treatment - from the ground up.