The U.S. won the Women's World Cup for the first time since 1999, and there is an easy way for the team to boost its chances for continued success: Creating an even deeper talent pool. But having a shot to play for the team needs to become more realistic for those whose household budget automatically eliminates this possibility.
As former USWNT star Julie Foudy put it to the New York Daily News: "Right now, it's so expensive. I have a friend who spent $30,000 a year on her daughter. That's out of reach for a lot of people, and we're not doing enough to change that. ... Around the world, it's played in under-served communities. In America, it's a middle class, white sport."
Two prominent sports columnists on opposite coasts also tackled this issue.
Watching the USA women in Canada, you were struck by the enthusiasm and passion and skill with which they played the game. You were also struck by the team's lack of racial diversity. There is nothing particularly horrible about having a USA team with almost entirely the same skin color. But it seems odd that previous American women's teams have been more representative of the country's diversity than this one.
This won't be the first column to point out that the American soccer system at the youth level relies on parents anteing up hundreds (and often thousands) of dollars to make sure their sons and daughters play on the better club teams with better coaches. Such a system self-eliminates many terrific young players whose parents can't afford to participate.
U.S. Soccer, along with its corporate sponsors, delivers several programs to inner-city communities. Safe Place To Play offers grants to build field space, and there are afterschool programs for children in urban neighborhoods.
That isn't enough, however, to provide the sort of coaching required for talented minority prospects. Other federations, such as the US Tennis Association and USA Fencing, have accomplished much more.
Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak, a Filipino American from California who played on the 1999 World Cup championship team, told NBC News there needs to be a distinction between outreach and selecting a team with diversity as a consideration:
"It doesn't mean if you're diverse you will be better. In 1999, we had a diverse team that was the accumulation of the best players in the county at that time. This time it wasn't as diverse, but it doesn't mean there aren't capable players out there."
But she also understands the value of making the game more accessible to those with fewer financial resources.
"You want the diversity so that young kids can attach themselves to a player, instead of kids saying, 'I don't know if I can play at that level, I don't see anyone like me,'" she said. "For me, that makes an impact."