TIME World Cup

America, Meet Soccer Star Carli Lloyd, Your Newest Sports Hero

in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Semi-Final Match at Olympic Stadium on June 30, 2015 in Montreal, Canada.
Minas Panagiotakis—Getty Images Carli Lloyd celebrates setting up Kelly O'Hara's goal in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Semi-Final Match at Olympic Stadium on June 30, 2015 in Montreal, Canada.

Her penalty, and perfect pass to second goal-scorer Kelly O'Hara, ensure a crucial U.S. victory in soccer's World Cup

Going into this year’s women’s World Cup, certain U.S. players stole the spotlight. Abby Wambach, the world’s all-time leading international goal scorer, trying to win her first World Cup in the twilight of her career. Forward Alex Morgan, heir to Mia Hamm. Goaltender Hope Solo, for all the off-field controversies.

But step aside, ladies. For this World Cup is now Carli Lloyd’s.

Lloyd, a two-time Olympic gold medal winner making her third World Cup appearance, is no stranger to soccer fans. But for the millions of more casual viewers tuning into America’s quest for its first World Cup since 1999, she’s now a water-cooler fixture. Lloyd has scored a goal in each of Team USA’s knockout-round victories on the way to the World Cup final, which will be played on July 5, when the U.S. will face the winner of Wednesday’s Japan-England semifinal.

Against Germany in Tuesday night’s semifinal, Lloyd’s second-half penalty kick gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead. Later, Lloyd stayed patient while dribbling in the goal box, waiting until Kelly O’Hara was in position to take her perfect pass and boot the insurance goal into the net. U.S. 2, Germany 0.

So America, if you’re not already invested in the World Cup, meet Carli Lloyd. A few quick essentials:

1. Lloyd has a history of shining in big moments: Sports Illustrated put her on the cover of its World Cup preview, with the tagline: “She’s Got Clutch.” No cover jinx in this World Cup — far from it. Lloyd scored the gold-medal winning goals in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. All this bodes well for Team USA’s chances on Sunday.

2. Her ex-Team USA coach, Pia Sundhage, dissed Lloyd in a New York Times profile that ran earlier in the World Cup.

“Carli Lloyd was a challenge to coach, by the way,” Sundhage said offhandedly at one point, her fork dangling as she considered Lloyd, who is a top midfielder for the United States. “When she felt that we had faith in her, she could be one of the best players. But if she began to question that faith, she could be one of the worst.”

She took a bite of salad. “It was so delicate, so, so delicate,” she said.

But so, so good. If coaching Lloyd, 32, has been a challenge, it’s certainly been worth any headaches. Lloyd called Sundhage’s comments “confusing.” America and Sweden played to a 0-0 draw during the knockout stage of this year’s World Cup.

3. Lloyd, who grew up in southern New Jersey and attended Rutgers University, credits a lot of her success to training with a former Australian pro player named James Galanis, described by the Wall Street Journal as “paunchy and bespectacled,” and someone who “comes off like a wizard instructor from the Harry Potter films.” Lloyd was supposed to take a ski trip with some friends while she was at Rutgers; Galanis told her if she was serious about making the US team, she had to skip the vacation.

To the cheers of many Americans, Lloyd put in the work. All that’s left is a World Cup win.

TIME Soccer

U.S. Heads to World Cup Final With 2-0 Win Over Germany

"I knew what I had to do"

(MONTREAL) — Carli Lloyd buried a penalty kick, Hope Solo got another shutout and the United States beat top-ranked Germany 2-0 on Tuesday night to advance to the title match at the Women’s World Cup.

Lloyd’s penalty kick in the 69th minute went into the right side of the goal less than 10 minutes after Celia Sasic shot wide on a penalty kick for Germany.

“Just slotted it home. I knew what I had to do,” Lloyd said.

Solo has posted five straight shutouts for the United States in the tournament. Kelley O’Hara came in off the bench and scored in the 85th minute, delighting the pro-American crowd.

The second-ranked United States will play the winner of Wednesday night’s match in Edmonton between defending champion Japan, ranked No. 4, and sixth-ranked England. The final is set for Sunday at Vancouver’s BC Place.

“It’s a dream come true,” Lloyd said. “This is what we trained for.”

It was the fourth World Cup meeting between Germany and the U.S. In each of the first three games, the winner went on to win the title.

The marquee matchup led to lines of fans waiting to get in about three hours before the game. The line for the main souvenir stand snaked up a half-dozen ramps to the building’s third level at one point.

The stadium built for the 1976 Olympics, where the East German men won the gold medal, was filled nearly to its blue fabric roof, mostly with fans cheering for the United States. The crowd was announced at 51,176.

Previous games in Montreal had the stadium less than half full, with the upper bowl completely empty.

The United States had several good chances from the start. Julie Johnston missed on a header off a corner kick from Megan Rapinoe, and Alex Morgan’s breakaway in the 15th minute was stopped by goaltender Nadine Angerer.

There was a scary moment in the first half when Germany’s Alexandra Popp and American midfielder Morgan Brian collided in front of the U.S. goal following a free kick from about 25 yards out.

Television cameras caught blood in Popp’s hair, and Brian was prone on the field for several minutes. Both players returned to the match.

After a scoreless first half, Lloyd had a header bounce inches wide to open the second.

Sasic’s penalty kick came after Johnston fouled Popp in the box. Sasic fooled Solo, who went right, but her kick went wide left, prompting a roar from the crowd.

Sasic went into the match as the tournament’s high scorer with six goals.

Shortly thereafter, Annike Krahn got a yellow card for fouling Morgan in the box, but replays showed it occurred just outside. Lloyd’s penalty kick was her third goal in three matches.

O’Hara scored on Lloyd’s left-footed cross.

The United States tweaked its formation for the match. Morgan started up top, with Lloyd as an attacking midfielder with Rapinoe and Tobin Heath on the wings.

The U.S. had success in its quarterfinal against China when it had Lloyd roaming up top and Brian back as a holding midfielder. Lloyd scored the lone goal in the 1-0 victory.

The United States improved to 3-1 against Germany in World Cup matches and 19-4-7 overall.

The United States has won two World Cup titles, but none since 1999. The Americans have appeared in the semifinals of all seven of the women’s tournaments.

Germany has also won the title twice, in consecutive tournaments in 2003 and ’07.

This tournament has played out with FIFA embroiled in scandal.

Earlier Tuesday, FIFA confirmed that President Sepp Blatter would skip the World Cup final, as U.S. officials pursue a criminal investigation into the game’s ruling body.

Blatter’s second-in-command, secretary general Jerome Valcke, also will be absent from the biggest event in women’s soccer “due to their current commitments in Zurich,” FIFA said in a statement Tuesday.

TIME Soccer

Abby Wambach Has Best Day Ever With U.S. Soccer Win and Gay Marriage Ruling

"For me it doesn't get any better"

(OTTAWA, Ontario)—That the United States capped Friday with a victory over China to advance to the semifinals at the Women’s World Cup had special meaning for forward Abby Wambach.

Earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples across the nation have the right to marry. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion: “No longer may this liberty be denied.”

U.S. Soccer posted to Twitter: “More than ever, today we are #OneNationOneTeam #LoveWins.”

Wambach has been married to her partner, Sarah Huffman, since 2013.

“Obviously it impacts my life personally, but everybody on our team was super happy and excited about it. And to cap it off with a win, moving on to the semis at the World Cup, for me it doesn’t get any better,” Wambach said.

The United States defeated China 1-0 on Carli Lloyd’s goal in the 51st minute. The win sends the second-ranked Americans to a semifinal on Tuesday in Montreal against top-ranked Germany.

The Supreme Court ruling will put an end to same-sex marriage bans in the 14 states that still maintain them.

 

TIME movies

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck Reunite for FIFA Scandal Movie

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon at the 28th Santa Barbara International Film Festival in Santa Barbara, Calif. on Jan. 25, 2013.
Rebecca Sapp—WireImage/Getty Images Ben Affleck and Matt Damon at the 28th Santa Barbara International Film Festival in Santa Barbara, Calif. on Jan. 25, 2013.

Houses of Deceit tells the story of disgraced FIFA executive Chuck Blazer

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are teaming up to bring the FIFA soccer scandal to the big screen, adapting the upcoming book Houses of Deceit by Buzzfeed reporter Ken Bensinger.

As first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. picked up the rights to Houses of Deceit, which will be produced by Damon and Affleck’s production company, Pearl Street Films. EW has confirmed that Gavin O’Connor (Warrior) is set to direct the film, reteaming with Affleck in their first project since wrapping up The Accountant. Warrior screenwriter Anthony Tambakis is attached to script. Entertainment 360’s Guymon Casady and Darin Friedman will also produce.

News of the deal ends a studio bidding war forHouses of Deceit, which Bensinger hasn’t even been published yet. Based on a 2014 article by the Pulitzer Prize finalist that delves into the story of former American FIFA executive Chuck Blazer—who in 2013 admitted to accepting millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes over the course of 20 years—the book has been picked up by Simon & Schuster and is slated for publication sometime in 2017.

Though no casting decisions have been made, Bensinger says he envisions Blazer being portrayed by someone like John Goodman, whom he says would bring “fury and comedy to the role.”

The story of Blazer’s involvement in a high-profile bribery scandal showcased the dark underbelly of soccer, revealing illicit corruption throughout the international body. At one point, Blazer used his position of influence to finance a Trump Tower apartment in Manhattan—just to house his cats. The New York native later cooperated with authorities in an in-depth investigation, and in May of this year, the 70-year-old pleaded guilty to 10 charges including wire fraud, money laundering, racketeering, and income tax evasion.

“I love the con-man story and just love that this is about a very strong sense of good and bad,” Bensinger says. “There’s not a lot of ambiguity about how these people behave. The IRS and FBI, and all these people who sort of did the good work and brought down something that was untouchable, because the power of FIFA internationally is unbelievable. It’s as if you combined the MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL into one organization.”

This article originally appeared on EW.com

MONEY Sports

The 10 Highest Paid Women Soccer Stars

Top male soccer stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo earn more than $40 million a year. Here's how much less women footballers make in comparison.

  • Marta Vieira da Silva

    Marta of Brazil in action during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Round of 16 match between Brazil and Australia at Moncton Stadium on June 21, 2015 in Moncton, Canada.
    Clive Rose—FIFA via Getty Images Marta of Brazil in action during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Round of 16 match between Brazil and Australia at Moncton Stadium on June 21, 2015 in Moncton, Canada.

    The Brazilian born soccer star who often goes by the single name Marta plays for the Brazilian National Team, but plays professionally in Sweden. She commanded the whopping salary of nearly $400,000 from her previous team, Tyresö FF, although the salary was reportedly paid by sponsors. Tyresö FF disbanded for financial reasons, but Viera stayed in Sweden by signing with FC Rosengård.

  • Alex Morgan

    Alex Morgan #13 of the United States tires to get past Sarah Nnodim #22 of Nigeria during the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Group D match between Nigeria and The United States June, 16, 2015 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
    Rich Lam—Getty Images Alex Morgan #13 of the United States tires to get past Sarah Nnodim #22 of Nigeria during the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Group D match between Nigeria and The United States June, 16, 2015 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

    One of the stars of the US Women’s World Cup Team, Morgan plays professionally for the Portland Thorns in the US National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Sportsgoogly.com reports that Morgan’s salary was increased to $450,000; if true, that must be through subsidies or sponsors as the NWSL is salary-capped at $200,000 per team. Whatever her salary is, she’s making more in endorsements, with estimates ranging above $1 million.

  • Abby Wambach

    United States forward Abby Wambach (20) runs down a ball in the box against Colombia defender Angela Clavijo (13) during the first half in the round of sixteen in the FIFA 2015 women's World Cup soccer tournament at Commonwealth Stadium.
    Michael Chow—USA Today Sports/Reuters United States forward Abby Wambach (20) runs down a ball in the box against Colombia defender Angela Clavijo (13) during the first half in the round of sixteen in the FIFA 2015 women's World Cup soccer tournament at Commonwealth Stadium.

    The world-record holder for international goals (men or women) recently announced that 2015 is her last run on the US World Cup team. She last played professionally for the Western New York Flash in the 2014 NWSL season and is taking the 2015 season off to prepare for the World Cup. Reports of her salary range from $190,000 to $300,000 — again, most likely through sponsorships.

  • Sydney Leroux

    Sydney Leroux of United States of America celebrates after the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Group D match between USA and Australia at Winnipeg Stadium on June 8, 2015 in Winnipeg, Canada.
    Adam Pretty—FIFA via Getty Images Sydney Leroux of United States of America celebrates after the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Group D match between USA and Australia at Winnipeg Stadium on June 8, 2015 in Winnipeg, Canada.

    Born in Surrey, British Columbia, Leroux now plays for the US World Cup team and plays professionally for the Western New York Flash. Estimates of her salary range from $60,000 to $92,500.

  • Nicole Banecki

    Nicole Banecki
    Bongarts—Getty Images Nicole Banecki

    Of mixed Cameroonian and German descent, Banecki plays for the German World Cup team as well as SC Freiburg in the German football league (Bundesliga). Her salary is listed at $90,000.

  • Amandine Henry

    Amandine Henry of France is challenged by of Korea during the FIFA Womens's World Cup round of 16 match between France and Korea at Olympic Stadium on June 21, 2015 in Montreal, Canada.
    Stuart Franklin—FIFA via Getty Images Amandine Henry of France is challenged by of Korea during the FIFA Womens's World Cup round of 16 match between France and Korea at Olympic Stadium on June 21, 2015 in Montreal, Canada.

    Henry plays defensive midfield for the French club Olympique Lyon, and is an important member of the French World Cup team, having scored an amazingly long goal against Mexico in the 2015 World Cup. Henry’s estimated salary range is from $60,000-$70,000.

  • Nilla Fischer

    Nilla Fischer #5 of Sweden reacts after scoring the second goal against goalkeeper Precious Dede #1 of Nigeria with Emma Berglund #4 during the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Group D match between Sweden and Nigeria at Winnipeg Stadium on June 8, 2015 in Winnipeg, Canada.
    Kevin C. Cox—Getty Images Nilla Fischer #5 of Sweden reacts after scoring the second goal against goalkeeper Precious Dede #1 of Nigeria with Emma Berglund #4 during the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Group D match between Sweden and Nigeria at Winnipeg Stadium on June 8, 2015 in Winnipeg, Canada.

    Known for her distinctive haircut, Fischer plays for both VfL Wolfsburg in the German league and the Swedish national team. Fischer’s salary is approximately $65,000.

  • Hope Solo

    Goalkeeper Hope Solo #1 of the United States looks on in the second half against Colombia in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Round of 16 match at Commonwealth Stadium on June 22, 2015 in Edmonton, Canada.
    Kevin C. Cox—Getty Images Goalkeeper Hope Solo #1 of the United States looks on in the second half against Colombia in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Round of 16 match at Commonwealth Stadium on June 22, 2015 in Edmonton, Canada.

    The controversial yet talented US World Cup goalkeeper and wife of former Seattle Seahawks (NFL) tight end Jerramy Stevens plays professionally for the Seattle Reign of the NWSL. Estimates of Solo’s salary vary greatly, from $22,000 to $65,000.

  • Jonelle Filigno

    Jonelle Filigno #16 of Canada high fives fans after the team warmup prior to the start of the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Round of 16 match between Switzerland and Canada June, 21, 2015 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
    Rich Lam—Getty Images Jonelle Filigno #16 of Canada high fives fans after the team warmup prior to the start of the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Round of 16 match between Switzerland and Canada June, 21, 2015 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

    Filigno gets the exciting chance to play for the 2015 World Cup in her native Canada as part of the Canadian World Cup team. She also plays professionally for Sky Blue FC in the NWSL (on the campus of Rutgers University in New Jersey). Filigno’s salary is approximately $60,000.

  • Laure Boulleau

    Laure Boulleau #3 of France takes the ball in the first half against England during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Group F match at Moncton Stadium on June 9, 2015 in Moncton, Canada.
    Elsa—Getty Images Laure Boulleau #3 of France takes the ball in the first half against England during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Group F match at Moncton Stadium on June 9, 2015 in Moncton, Canada.

    Boulleau plays for Paris St.-Germain in the French league as well as playing for the French World Cup team. Boulleau’s salary is estimated at $60,000.

    Sources for all earnings reported in this story:
    SportsGoogly, Sporteology, Sportyghost, Dailyentertainment, TSMplay, EqualizerSoccer, USA Today, UEFA, NWSLsoccer, NESN & Fusion.

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TIME Soccer

U.S. Soccer Captain Clint Dempsey Gets a Two-Year Open Cup Ban for Ripping Up a Referee’s Notebook

New England Revolution v Seattle Sounders
Otto Greule Jr—Getty Images Clint Dempsey #2 of the Seattle Sounders FC dribbles against the New England Revolution at CenturyLink Field on March 8, 2015 in Seattle, Washington

That's in addition to the three-match suspension he's already been given

Clint Dempsey, the captain of the U.S. soccer team, has been given a two-year or a six-game ban from the U.S. Open Cup — whichever is longer. The disciplinary move comes after he knocked a notebook from a referee’s hand and then tore it up during a June 16 game between his club side, the Seattle Sounders, and the Portland Timbers.

The U.S. Open Cup Adjudication and Discipline Panel announced Thursday that he would also be fined.

Dempsey had already been punished with a three-match suspension on June 19, according to the New York Times. He has sat out on two games already.

During the June 16 game, Dempsey knocked the notebook out of referee Daniel Radford’s hand toward the end of the match in objection to a call. According to CBS Sports, Radford red-carded Dempsey but then noticed that the U.S. captain was already walking off the field.

[CBS Sports]

TIME World Cup

In Women’s World Cup, U.S. Feels Weight of Expectations

Members of China's national team take part in a training session at Lansdowne Stadium in Ottawa on June 25, 2015 on the eve of their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup quarterfinal match against the US.
Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images Members of China's national team take part in a training session at Lansdowne Stadium in Ottawa on June 25, 2015 on the eve of their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup quarterfinal match against the US.

It's not enough for the Americans to just beat China in Friday's quarterfinal

They haven’t lost a single game in this World Cup. They haven’t given up a goal since the opener, stringing together a remarkable 333-minute shutout streak. On Friday night, they face China—a team that hasn’t beaten them in 24 matches, dating back to 2003—in the World Cup quarterfinals. They’re three games away from a championship.

So why all this anxiety about the U.S. women’s soccer team?

Despite the wins—and a scoreless draw with Sweden in group play—the team has drawn more critics than cheers. Eric Wynalda, the former men’s national team player and commentator for Fox, went so far as to call the team’s performance against Colombia, a 2-0 U.S. win in the round of 16, “pathetic.”

Wynalda, and other pundits, have pointed fingers at the coach, Jill Ellis, for the team’s lack of offensive dynamism. She’s employed a defensive-minded game plan—which has clearly worked. So far. If the team couldn’t rack up more goals against early-round competition, the U.S. will be in trouble against a Germany, France, or Japan. “There’s been a lack of offensive flow and rhythm,” said former U.S. star Julie Foudy, a member of the last American team to win a World Cup, in 1999. “They’re not creating a lot of chances, they’re not taking players on, it’s really been four stagnant games.”

OK, but what about all that winning? Does it count for anything? According to Foudy, an ESPN analyst, the complaining has a bright side: we gripe because we care. “It really speaks to the growth of the game here, that we’re all debating it, we’re talking about it, we’re not content with just winning anymore,” said Foudy. “Sure, you can win on good defense. And sure you can grind it out. But really, with more support, more funding, more kids playing in the United States, why are we relying on grinding it out anymore?”

For the Americans, the beautiful game needs to be more beautiful. To that end, Foudy’s hoping that Ellis will deploy three scoring forwards—perhaps a combo of Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach and Sydney LeRoux—against China, instead of the usual two. Such a formation would ease the burden on the veteran Wambach, 35, who has had to cover more ground in the two-forward set. “For her to be chasing balls down on into the corner flag is crazy to me,” Foudy said. “That’s not her game.”

Bottom line, Foudy wants Ellis to shake up the game plan now, before trying it out against Germany or France in the semis. Not that the U.S. can look past China. They’ve got strong goalkeeping, and can cause trouble off set pieces. China faced the U.S. in the epic ’99 final, but women’s soccer has declined in that country since that time: as the New York Times reports, only some 6,000 or 7,000 female players above the age of 12 are registered to play. Parents are more likely to stress school over soccer, which offers few opportunities beyond the national team. But China’s president, Xi Jinping, likes soccer, and is backing a plan to revive the game.

Heading into Friday night’s game, the U.S. is also missing midfielders Megan Rapinoe, who along with goaltender Hope Solo has probably been America’s MVP this tournament, and Lauren Holiday, who’ve been issued two yellow cards in the tournament, and thus have to sit out a game. Still, said Foudy, “the U.S. should be absolutely fine” against China.

Fine, however, is no longer fine. The Americans need to win big to temper all this stress. Until the next game at least.

TIME Soccer

U.S. Advances to World Cup Quarterfinals With 2-0 Win Over Colombia

Alex Morgan, Angela Clavijo
Jason Franson—The Canadian Press/AP Alex Morgan kicks the ball in front of Colombia's Angela Clavijo during a World Cup round of 16 match in Edmonton, Canada, on June 22, 2015

The U.S. is seeking its third World Cup title, but first since 1999

(EDMONTON, Alberta) —Alex Morgan scored her first goal of the Women’s World Cup and the United States advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-0 victory over Colombia on Monday night.

Abby Wambach’s penalty kick early in the second half went wide after Colombia goalkeeper Catalina Perez — a backup herself — was ejected for a foul on Morgan. Stefany Castano, who replaced Perez in goal, got a hand on Morgan’s shot five minutes later, but couldn’t stop the goal to put the United States up 1-0.

Carli Lloyd also scored for the second-ranked Americans, who will face No. 16 China on Friday in Ottawa. The United States is seeking its third World Cup title, but first since 1999.

The Americans have not allowed a goal in 333 minutes.

Colombia has never won soccer’s premier tournament, but the No. 28 Las Cafeteras pulled off one of the biggest upsets in any World Cup in the group stage when they defeated third-ranked France 2-0.

Morgan and Wambach started up top for the United States, which used the same starting lineup as it did in the group-stage finale against Nigeria — a first since Jill Ellis became coach.

It was Morgan’s second straight start after working her way back from a bone bruise in her left knee. Morgan came in as a sub in the first two matches of the tournament.

Perez, a 20-year-old junior at Miami, started because regular goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda was serving a suspension for yellow-card accumulation. Sepulveda had six saves in Colombia’s win over France. Castano had started in Colombia’s World Cup opener, a 1-1 draw with Mexico.

The teams played to a goalless first half, with the United States unable to finish several good chances.

Wambach was ruled offside for her attempt at a rebound goal in the fourth minute. Morgan later had a chance, but her shot bounced in front of Perez, who tipped it up and over the crossbar. Perez made three saves in the first half.

The United States was hurt in the 17th minute when Lauren Holiday got a yellow card, her second of the World Cup. She’ll have to sit out the quarterfinal, and it happened again in the 41st minute when Megan Rapinoe got her second yellow.

Perez was sent off at the start of the second half after sliding into Morgan, who was charging toward goal. After Castano took over, Wambach fooled her on the right side but the penalty kick sailed well left of the post.

After Morgan’s goal in the 53rd minute, Lloyd scored on a penalty kick in the 66th, Lloyd’s first goal of the tournament.

The U.S. had won each of the previous two meetings. When they met nearly three years ago in the London Olympics, Colombia striker Lady Andrade sucker-punched U.S. star Abby Wambach in the eye, drawing a two-match suspension.

In the days before the match in Edmonton, some of Colombia’s players said they felt they’d been disrespected by the Americans ever since.

“Because of something that happened three years ago, they’ve said things that have not been taken by us in the best way,” midfielder Yoreli Rincon said. Andrade told reporters she thought the Americans had “belittled” the Colombians.

Colombia, the third-place finisher in Group F behind France and England, was making its second World Cup appearance; it finished in 14th in 2011 in Germany. Colombia had never won a match in the sport’s premier tournament until the upset of France.

The second-ranked Americans finished on top of the so-called Group of Death, with victories over Australia and Nigeria and a 0-0 tie with Sweden.

China, the Americans’ next opponent, has played in six World Cups, but missed out four years ago. The Steel Roses have never won a title, but they made the final in 1999, losing memorably to the United States on penalty kicks at the Rose Bowl.

 

TIME Bizarre

This Soccer Team’s New Mascot Will Haunt Your Every Waking Moment

Kingsley
Jeff Holmes — Partick Thistle Football Club

Meet "Kingsley"

The Scottish soccer team Partick Thistle has a new mascot, and it’s caused quite a stir on social media.

The new mascot was designed by artist David Shrigley and was unveiled Monday after the Scottish team signed a new six-figure sponsorship deal with the California-based company Kingsford Capital Management.

The mascot is named Kingsley, and it’s pretty unclear what exactly Kingsley is. It’s been described by some as “absolutely terrifying.”

The new deal includes front shirt sponsorship, branding around the stadium, and the selling of your soul to Kingsley the Yellow King of Carcosa.

TIME Sports

It’s Not Women’s Soccer—It’s Just Soccer

Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States and Ngozi Okobi #13 of Nigeria during the Group D match of the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 in Vancouver on June 16, 2015.
Rich Lam—Getty Images Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States and Ngozi Okobi #13 of Nigeria during the Group D match of the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 in Vancouver on June 16, 2015.

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

The World Cup shouldn't be the only time my son roots for female sports stars

He sat on the edge of his seat, tense, cheering and simultaneously yelling at the refs, shifting from side to side with each movement of the ball. No, my 9-year-old wasn’t watching Le Bron and Curry, he was watching Wambach and Morgan.

He’s got World Cup fever.

Every day he asks, “Who won today, who’s playing next, how did the U.S. do and can we watch, pretty please?” As Team USA advances to the elimination rounds, his excitement grows.

We’re big sports fans. My husband has coached Jake in three sports. Pretty much the only television we watch involves sport – basketball, football, tennis, college, pro, national, you name it. So, when Jake took a keen interest in the Women’s World Cup I wasn’t surprised.

What struck me, though, is that he doesn’t qualify it. He isn’t into the “Women’s” World Cup; he’s into the World Cup. He isn’t watching “girls’” soccer; it’s just soccer.

He watches the sport free from labels and judgments. His enthusiasm is fueled by compelling athletes representing their country, leaving it all out on the field.

So, it begs the question: Will Jake eventually come to view women’s sports as second class or are we witnessing a cultural shift? Is his gender egalitarianism a matter of innocence that will be lost, or an enlightenment never attained by most of the adults around him?

As he cheers on Team USA, Jake isn’t privy to some of the discouraging context surrounding the Women’s World Cup. He doesn’t know that this World Cup is being watched by a minuscule global audience compared to last year’s men’s World Cup, or that its games are played on artificial turf while last year’s were played on carefully manicured grass. He doesn’t know that the players in these games struggle to make a living off soccer, while their male counterparts are wealthy beyond their dreams on account of the deep-pocketed leagues in Europe and elsewhere. And, no one has ever told Jake that the women’s game is supposedly “less exciting” than the men’s game.

He sees hard-nosed competition and he likes it.

I know a thing or two about the elusive quest to have women’s sports be taken seriously, having worked for three seasons as a senior vice president with the NBA Phoenix Suns, which is owned by the same group as the WNBA Phoenix Mercury.

We struggled mightily to engage a broader fan base for the Merc despite having a women’s team that was more successful than its male counterpart. The Suns, while close, have never won a championship. In fewer years, the Mercury have won three. For the last three seasons, the Suns have been devoid of a superstar. The Mercury roster boasts two: Dianna Taurasi and Brittney Griner (she dunks!).

And still, attracting a following and widespread public support (as measured by ticket sales, TV ratings, and merchandise sales) remains a challenge for the Mercury and the WNBA broadly. The funny thing is that when people actually give the Mercury a chance, they turn into fans more often than not. The competitive intensity is all there, minus some of the dunking and flash.

While the skills gap between men’s and women’s soccer may be smaller than it is in basketball, soccer has yet to attain the gender parity you see in tennis. This may be due to the fact that many of the world’s leading soccer powers have been slower to embrace the women’s game. Or, it may be due to the fact that the anemic promotion of women’s soccer is more like what happens in basketball than in tennis. And make no mistake, promotion matters.

In a world of constant noise and chatter, it’s the messages we hear most often that stick with us, and you don’t hear much about women’s soccer outside of the World Cup every four years. It’s the noise that drives interest, interest that drives dollars, and dollars that pay for everything else.

What if the likes of Nike, Adidas, Coke, and Gatorade spent as much promoting female athletes as they did men? What if women’s leagues had the same marketing budget as men’s leagues? What if the National Women’s Soccer League got as much airtime in the U.S. as the English Premier League?

Naysayers will say all of that would happen if the interest were there. I say, increase promotion and the interest will follow. It’s the difference between having a market and creating one. Premier League ratings are growing steadily not because of some pre-existing clamor for these games, but because of NBC’s masterful marketing of the league and its storylines.

It’s what the NBA has been doing in China (and beyond) for years. Before David Stern took over the league, there wasn’t a single NBA game televised in China, so he gave it to them for free. Why? In the hopes that if you build it, they will come. Now, the NBA is one of the most popular brands in China and a growth market for the League.

People weren’t clamoring, likewise, for American football in London, but the NFL is banking on the idea that if you schedule enough regular-season games there over time, an expansion NFL team in Europe will soon be viable, expanding the game’s reach.

Creating a market takes risk and a willingness to lose money over the short haul. But, while we’ve seen a willingness to do that in men’s sports, it’s largely missing on the women’s side. Tennis is the one sport that has been able to create something resembling virtual gender parity in terms of fan interest and resources allotted.

This can’t be accomplished by leagues alone–or overnight. Sponsors have to invest in the effort. The NBA has opened up China, so you know what the big brands are doing? Sending the players they endorse over to China to promote their products. Players are interacting directly with Chinese fans via Chinese social media. The NBA, its sponsors, and players are creating noise. Lots of it. American fans and sponsors should make a lot of noise around women’s soccer: we may be late to the world’s game overall, but we were pioneers in treating the game as one suitable for both boys and girls.

Promotion alone is not enough; you must start with a compelling product. No one watches the New York Yankees, L.A. Kings, or the Washington Wizards just because they saw a billboard. Fans want competition; they want entertainment; they want to associate with winners; and they want to root for likeable players representing their community. Women’s sports already deliver on the first three, and with more promotion, we could get to know more of the athletes.

In my day job now, I work with people who want to be better leaders, have greater influence or grow their companies. One thing I tell them is that if they want something to be different, they need to change the way they think about it.

What if we quit thinking about women’s sports as different? Imagine if no one pointed out the girl who tries out for Little League. What if we took our sons to more basketball games, not women’s basketball game? And for crying out loud, quit telling our kids they “throw like girls.”

Maybe for Jake and his generation, “women’s sports” will become just “sports” – to be followed and enjoyed, concurrently with men’s sports.

But the rest of us need to help this aspiration along, with the right cultural and business infrastructure for women’s sports. Last week Marta, a Brazilian player, broke the record for all-time scoring in the Women’s World Cup edging out Germany’s Brigit Prinz. Her nickname, “Pele with skirts” is unfortunate, but shouldn’t detract from the fact that she is widely considered one of the greatest female soccer players of all time.

I went onto Amazon to see if I could buy Jake a Marta jersey, but no dice, unless of course he wants to wear a women’s fitted t-shirt. So, he’ll keep watching with Neymar, Jr., on his back. But if the women’s game remains in his heart, I’ll chalk it up as a win.

Tanya Wheeless, a former Phoenix Suns senior vice president, runs her own executive coaching business and teaches sports marketing at Arizona State University. On Twitter, she is @TanyaWheeless. She wrote this for Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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