Soccer may not be the national pastime in America, but the U.S. women's national team manages to make it so every four years. The team will play in the World Cup final Sunday against Japan, another squad that navigated the tough competition through sheer grit and determination.
This nation has had a love affair with the team ever since the Americans won the title in 1999. Since then, millions of teens have imagined themselves as the next Julie Foudy or Mia Hamm. The current squad is a far different team eager to make its own history. But the players bring the same joy and camaraderie to the field. And their sportsmanship reflects well on the nation. The women's game is refreshingly short of the diving, fouls and cheap shots that have plagued men's soccer. And the U.S. team, as the nation to beat, can take credit for that.
Female soccer players can hardly look forward to lucrative careers in booming professional leagues or as high-paid analysts in the broadcast booth. But there is a love for the game in women's soccer that shows through on the field. There is no bigger stage to see that than Sunday's final. It is another chance for this team to show the poise and pride that has electrified the tournament. The game begins at 2:45 p.m. on ESPN.