2015 Women’s World Cup

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After 2015 World Cup success, Australian women stood for better wages — and won

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Long before the U.S. women’s soccer team filed a federal complaint over wage discrimination, the Australian women fought for better pay.

And won.

The Matildas, as they are known, will be among the 12 women’s soccer teams playing in Brazil next week when the Olympics get underway. Their strike following a successful run in last summer’s Women’s World Cup in Canada was significant as female athletes across sports fight for recognition and respect – including their American counterparts.

“In terms of being trailblazers, I’m not really sure. I think we just sort of went about it how we thought was necessary,” Australian defender Steph Catley said. “We felt we deserved more.”

The Matildas have made a quick ascent as one of the world’s elite teams. They gained national attention last year when they became the first team from Australia – male or female – to win a World Cup knockout round match by upsetting Brazil 1-0 and advancing to the quarterfinals.

The United States went on to win the World Cup with a 5-2 victory over Japan in the final.

Afterward, the U.S. women scheduled a pair of exhibition matches against Australia as part of a victory tour. But the Australian federation withdrew from those matches after the Matildas walked out of training camp and the players’ union said contract talks with the national federation had stalled.

The Matildas, whose contract had expired, said they had not been paid for two months heading into the walkout.

The salary for a national team player was equivalent to $14,475, based on a six-month playing period. That meant many of the players needed to have other jobs to make ends meet. Some players worked two club seasons, one at home in Australia and the other in the United States with the National Women’s Soccer League, meaning they played year-round.

The players were asking for a salary increase to $28,000 a year, as well as other benefits including improved accommodations and bonuses for international matches. The demands were part of larger bargaining that included the men’s national team and A-League players, and the Football Federation Australia at one point claimed the Matildas were being used as a pawn in the negotiations.

But there was a groundswell of support for the women, who have seen their popularity rise in Australia along with the team’s stature on the national stage.

American stars Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd, former player Julie Foudy and Canadian forward Christine Sinclair were among those who expressed support for the Australians. There were change.org petitions to support the team.

“The Matildas are courageously fighting for what is right. (hashtag) priclessrolemodels,” Lloyd posted to Twitter.

The deal that was eventually struck in November included a pay structure that puts the salaries for top players at $30,700 per year and those at the next level at $22,400. The contract calls for a 10 percent raise each year and improved bonuses and other benefits.

“Our elite female players deserve a full-time professional career path in football and this agreement represents a solid foundation we can build on,” players’ association chief executive Adam Vivian said at the time.

Striker Kyah Simon said the move made the team stronger.

“The Matildas’ story is standing up for what we believe in and standing up for our brand and our culture. I think at the end of the day it brought the team closer together,” Simon said. “It’s something we can look on with pride, and something that’s hopefully a positive future for our sport and for the new generation of players.”

The victory came well before a group of U.S. women’s national team players filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging wage discrimination. The women claim they make far less on average than their male national team counterparts. The complaint in late March came as the players seek a new collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer.

Heading into the Olympics, the Matildas are ranked No. 5 in the world.

They leapfrogged Japan and Korea in the AFC qualification tournament to earn the trip to Rio along with China – scoring 17 goals in five matches.

Australia is in a tough group in Brazil that includes No. 2 Germany, No. 10 Canada and Zimbabwe. It is the only group with three teams ranked in the top 10. The top-ranked Americans play in a group that includes No. 3 France, New Zealand and Colombia.

Australia opens the tournament on Wednesday against Canada in Sao Paulo.

“After the World Cup everything sort of started to change. When we came home there was so much media attention and so many people that were interested in what we were doing and really proud of the success we had,” Catley said of the team’s rising profile. “I think people always knew there was a national team, but I don’t think they realized how high in the rankings we were and how much better we were getting as a team.”

Puksas Award finalists: Somehow absent is USWNT’s Carli Lloyd

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FIFA announced on Monday its three-man list of finalists for the 2015 Puskas Award, handed out each year to the player who scored the “most beautiful” goal of the past calendar year.

[ MORE: 2015 Ballon d’Or finalists ]

The three men up for this year’s honor are Alessandro Florenzi (WATCH HERE), Lionel Messi (WATCH HERE) and Wendell Lira (WATCH HERE) — all scorers of fantastically beautiful goals this year.

That means Carli Lloyd, who made the original list of nominees before being whittled down to just three, is shockingly tragically scandalously criminally not a finalist for this year’s award. Reminder: This is the goal we’re talking about.

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

So, here’s the case for Lloyd:

  • She scored from midfield
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick in the 16th minute

How in the world is Carli Lloyd’s midfield goal to complete a 16-minute hat trick and win a World Cup final not a top-three goal of the year? You got some (more) explaining to do, FIFA.

Wambach didn’t want retirement to overshadow victory tour

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When the final whistle blew on the Women’s World Cup this summer, Abby Wambach was nearly convinced that it was her final championship.

The game’s most prolific international scorer – among women and men – needed time to think, though. She didn’t make it official until after a visit to the White House with the cup-champion U.S. national team Tuesday. She is retiring from the game.

“I was 95 percent certain,” she said Wednesday, referring to her thoughts following the World Cup title match. “But I also know myself well enough to know that I wanted to make sure it wasn’t an impulsive choice and that I was sure it was what I wanted and it would be best not just for me personally but also for this team.”

[ MORE: U.S. Soccer legend Abby Wambach announces retirement ]

The response was typical of Wambach, who spent her 15-year career always pushing for more. The 2012 FIFA Player of the Year has 184 goals in 252 international matches.

Now 35, Wambach had often said she wanted to cap her career with soccer’s premier championship, the one title she didn’t have. She reached the goal when the United States delivered a 5-2 victory over Japan in the World Cup final.

She will play the final four matches of the national team’s 10-game victory tour before stepping down. Her final match will be Dec. 16 against China in New Orleans.

“I’ve been hesitant to release this because I don’t want the victory tour to turn into a farewell tour for Abby,” she said.

The U.S. team crisscrossed Canada during the monthlong World Cup tournament before dominating Japan in the title game at Vancouver’s BC Place. Carli Lloyd was named the MVP after scoring three goals in the span of 16 minutes in the final match.

Wambach saw her role with the team change during the tournament. She came in off the bench in several matches, sacrificing a starting role for the good of the team.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USWNT coverage | NWSL ]

“We’re all competitors and we all want to play,” she said. “As my career has evolved and gone on, I have seen people come on the team that are fantastic players. And it wasn’t just about me anymore.”

Wambach appeared in four World Cups with the national team. She also has a pair of Olympic gold medals from the 2004 Games in Athens and the 2012 Games in London. She was not on the U.S. team that won gold at the Beijing Games because of a broken leg.

Perhaps one of her most famous goals came in the quarterfinals of the 2011 World Cup in Germany, when she scored the equalizer against Brazil in the 122nd minute.

She finishes as the all-time leading U.S. scorer in both Olympic and World Cup games. She played 25 total World Cup matches with 14 goals, and 10 Olympic matches with nine goals.

She joins Mia Hamm (2001, 2002) as the only Americans to win FIFA’s player of the year honors.

At 5-foot-11 (1.8-meters), the Rochester, New York, native also brought her own imposing athleticism to the women’s game. Of her goals, 77 were off headers.

[ MORE: VIDEO — USWNT taught American children to be “badass” ]

But more than her numbers, Wambach was serious about her responsibility to grow the women’s game and fight for equal rights.

Last year, she led a group of the world’s top women players in protesting FIFA’s decision to play the 2015 Women’s World Cup on artificial turf, which is considered by many players to be inferior to grass. The players claimed that it was gender discrimination because their male counterparts have never played a World Cup on an artificial surface.

In the end, the tournament went on as planned, but Wambach had made her point.

Wambach made it clear Wednesday that she is retiring from international and club play. The NWSL’s Seattle Reign held her rights this past season, but she did not play a match while she prepared for the World Cup.

As for the future, Wambach is going to take some time after the victory to just relax. She has no concrete plan yet for what’s next.

“I just played the game as hard as I possibly could,” she said. “And some opponent may say that I embellished some of my knocks here or there more than I should have. But the reality is that I’ve loved playing for my country in whatever capacity I could to help us win games.”

VIDEO: Obama – USWNT taught American children to be “badass”

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The President of the United States of America welcomed the U.S. women’s national team to the White House on Tuesday as they celebrated their 2015 World Cup success.

[ MORE: Messi to leave Barca? ]

Members of the playing and coaching squad were pictured in and around the White House, and then President Barack Obama gave a speech where he honored the team for their record third World Cup title.

In that speech, Obama was very complimentary about their success and what it meant not only for women’s soccer, but women’s sports and U.S. society in general.

[ MORE: Ranking FIFA presidential candidates ]

The main sound-byte to come out of his address will no doubt be the gem which is in the video below courtesy of U.S. Soccer.

Obama: “This team taught all of America’s children that playing like a girl means being a badass”

Women’s Ballon d’Or nominees: Three USWNT players, West Virginia junior

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
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We now know the players and coaches nominated for the highest individual honors in women’s soccer, and there are plenty of connections to the 2015 World Cup champions.

Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd are nominees for World Player of the Year, while USWNT coach Jill Ellis is up for World Coach of the Year.

Seattle Reign boss Laura Harvey is also up for the latter honor, and will combat the coaches for Canada and England amongst others.

[ MORE: Giggs, Neville allow homeless to stay winter in hotel ]

Another candidate for POY is plying her trade in the American college game, as West Virginia junior Kadeisha Buchanan is up for the honor.

Surprisingly, World Cup semifinalist England did not have a player on the final list.

FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year nominees
U.S. — Lloyd, Rapinoe, Solo
France — Amandine Henry, Eugenie Le Sommer
Germany — Nadine Angerer, Celia Sasic
Japan — Aya Miyama
Canada — Kadeisha Buchanan
Switzerland — Ramona Bachmann

FIFA Women’s World Coach of the Year nominees
Calle Barring – Sweden U-19
Colin Ball – FFC Frankfurt
Farid Benstiti – Paris Saint-Germain
Jill Ellis – USWNT
Laura Harvey – Seattle Reign
John Herdman – Canada
Gerard Precheur – Lyon
Mark Sampson – England
Norio Sasaki – Japan
Thomas Worle – Bayern Munich.