Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht) and Jermaine Jones (Schalke) are active in the men’s competition, but compared to the number of U.S. internationals involved in the women’s version of UEFA Champions League, two seems like a relatively paltry number. As the women’s competition’s Round of 32 started today, 27 U.S. players were listed on squads set to take part in this year’s knockout round.
That’s right: 27. There’s nearly one American player per team in UEFA Women’s Champions League, names that range from your top-flight U.S. Women’s National Team talents (Tobin Heath, pictured,, Megan Rapinoe, Ali Krieger) to NWSL players looking to supplement their income (Joanna Lohman, Sinead Farrelly) to players who make Europe their home base on a permanent basis (Christen Press, Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg).
The full list of players is at the bottom of this article, but with the world’s biggest women’s club competition starting in earnest today, it’s worth asking why these players aren’t getting a little more publicity back home. Of course, we know the answer … but stay with me while we build toward it (and, eventually, get to today’s results).
Can you imagine the amount of attention we’d be giving to men’s Champions League if eight prominent players — talents close to or in the national team — were active in the competition? That’s how many players with national team possibilities are on the women’s list. Yet for as much as we hear about the exploits of Tim Howard and Michael Bradley and the Champions League outcomes of Schalke (Jones) and Anderlecht (Kljestan), the European exploits of some of the women’s game’s biggest stars are completely overlooked.
And, of course, this is the inherent sexism of sport at work. It’s sports-level patriotic to write and consume “yanks abroad” updates for the most obscure male talents, most of whom are reported on despite their games being unavailable to watch. But for women playing top-level soccer abroad? Many of whom are not available to watch weekly via internet streams? Patriotism apparently has its limits.
There are a couple other notable, confounding (though not independent) factors. The Women’s Champions League, as a tournament, has yet to capture imaginations like the men’s. It’s getting there, seemingly taking notable steps forward each year, but it’s not at the point where it’s readily accessible to the U.S. audience. You can stream it, but it’s mid-day. And aside from the final, it’s not on television (and being on GolTV makes that claim somewhat debatable).
Second, the women’s club world, while rapidly evolving, still sees a huge disparity between great teams and average ones. The divide often leads to some non-Champions-y results in UEFA’s showcase. Today there were 14-0 and a 7-1 results, both high numbers coming from the road team.
But let’s be honest: The inability to watch game never stopped people from tracking the biggest men’s talents. And with the popularity of the women’s national team in this country, it’s difficult to definitely argue there’s no interest in this type of coverage. While it would be difficult to justify throwing men’s Champions League or Premier League attention at the “WUCL”, it should justify a post vague, one-line “played 90 minutes, team lost X-Y” type coverage.
So what’s left? Where are we left with excuses? A lack of bandwidth to cover it? Maybe. But there may also just be a lack of males playing, and as anything regarding these issues, the reasons may be too confounded to untangle.
But maybe this is a case, of the simplest, most accessible answer is the right one. If 27 U.S. males were playing in Champions League, you wouldn’t have to hear it from me.
(Given the length of this post, I’ve broken the result of today’s Round of 32 action into a separate, upcoming post. Here, however, it the list of U.S. players on squads playing in this year’s UEFA Champions League):
U.S. PLAYERS IN 2013-14 UEFA WOMEN’S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
- Ingrid Wells, Turbine Potsdam
- Alex Singer, Turbine Potsdam
- Ashlyn Harris, Tyresö
- Christen Press, Tyresö
- Ali Krieger, Tyresö
- Whitney Engen, Tyresö
- Meghan Klingenberg, Tyresö
- Lindsey Horan, Paris Saint-Germain
- Tobin Heath, Paris Saint-Germain
- Michelle Betos, Apollon Limassol
- Kelly Ann Henderson, Apollon Limassol
- Joanna Lohman, Apollon Limassol
- Tina DiMartino, Apollon Limassol
- Sinead Farrelly, Apollon Limassol
- Jasmyne Spencer, Apollon Limassol
- Gina DiMartino, Apollon Limassol
- Kristen Nicole Edwards, Rossiyanka
- Lydia Hasting, PK-35 Vantaa
- Megan Rapinoe, Lyon
- Viktoria Alonzo, Thor/KA
- Thanal Annis, Thor/AK
- Kayla Grimsely, Thor/AK
- Chante Sandiford, Zorky
- Amy Barczuk, Zorky
- Nick Ashley, Zorky
- Alyssa Mautz, Zorky
- Amanda Mcmullan, Fortuna