There are two problems the US women need to address in the near future. To wit: the team is terrible, and no one wants to watch them.
Today's game should have been on television - you'd think that would be indisputable, but the Powers That Are disputed it.
Now, the team didn't exactly plan on these two games against Italy, so something would have been bumped to make room on the schedule. Not the easiest thing in the entire world, but certainly possible. I mean, this is sports. Schedules are juggled every day. Let's see what was on this afternoon shall we?
Fox Soccer Channel had: Fulham v. Birmingham City; Fox Soccer Report; and Juve v. Viola. Only the most dedicated, intractable, unreconstructed Eurosnob would claim that the US women's team, even in its current state, wouldn't get much better ratings than Fulham against Brum City. Hell, I'd bet that game would have gotten acceptable ratings in Birmingham itself. As far as whether bumping a Serie A upper-midtable match would have worked - well, there's no accounting for taste. There would have been SOME Italian soccer if they had shown the US game. And probably not that much less scoring.
And I'd be the very last person to say that Juventus games are still fixed.
"Last" in the Matthew 20:16 sense, that is.
But fine, let's assume there were contracts with foreign leagues that would have cost Fox more than broadcasting an actual important game.
Which leaves the ESPN family of networks. Let's see what was on the worldwide leader.
Buncha college football. LOTS of college football. Interesting rivalry games, most of them. I can sort of see why Disney didn't - hello, what's this:
ESPN Classic - Homecoming with Rick Reilly. Featuring Landon Donovan. Originally shown in June.
You know what? I think that could have been bumped.
So why wasn't it? This was almost certainly the USSF's decision. ESPN could have demanded an unreasonable fee to...show a live sports event that would have, with absolute certainty, outdrawn what they were going to show. It's possible.
FIFA rigmarole probably played a part - this wasn't a game where the fed pocketed most of the money, it was a FIFA match. At least the proceeds weren't being skated off into Jack Warner's account - er, I mean, charged by CONCACAF. But...how much could the Italian FA, UEFA, or FIFA possibly have wanted? Yeah, a lot of hands were out, but how much could those rights have possibly cost?
No, I think this was the Fed being more than a little embarrassed about these games. They only had to play them because Mexico beat the US for the first time ever. The women's team is the one that's supposed to win all the time. That's been their big post-Mia marketing tactic.
Which is another little problem - the team hasn't replaced Mia Hamm as their icon. That's unfair to everyone involved - Nike put an extraordinary amount of time and energy into Mia Hamm, who was not only marketed perfectly, but could live up to the hype.
It's unreasonable to ask Nike and the USSF to replace a once-every-three-generations phenomenon like that, but Nike hasn't tried. Probably because in the late 90's, they weren't trying to shore up bad investments in Tiger Woods and LeBron James at the same time.
It's only slightly less unfair to blame the current players for not being as good, or as marketable. Mia wasn't as good as Michelle Akers, after all. And while Abby Wambach is insanely intimidating, Hamm wasn't marketed as a teddy bear, either.
But...the team of the turn of the millennium wasn't anywhere near as dominant as they were in the 90's, and the team of the Teens is off to an even poorer start. Most of the attention recently has been given to college players - Rodriguez, Cheney, and now Alex Morgan. Which is fine, if they pan out. Hopefully Amy Rodriguez's play for Philadelphia is more representative than her play for Boston. But Lauren Cheney had a very quiet year for the Breakers (hm, maybe Boston is the problem), and Morgan is still screwing around in college. I like Morgan, too, but she has to get to the next level pronto. NCAA-level pretty clearly isn't going to cut it anymore.
The US has lost a couple of pretty important players recently. Lori Chalupny doesn't believe her career is over, but, this isn't a good time to make the case that concussions aren't a big deal. Kate Markgraf had to retire sometime, I suppose. Hope Solo is out with a shoulder injury - she might come back, but I have to wonder how enthusiastically she'd be welcomed. Abby? Kris? Your thoughts?
The women's team has an advantage the men's team doesn't - screwing up in the World Cup can be solved the next year in the Olympics. So what if this year's World Cup looks like it's going to be a Hindenburg in reverse - there's always London 2012. Maybe the federation should keep the team off television entirely until then.