Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Seattle's Hope Solo Shines Spotlight On Problems In Women's Pro Soccer

Seattle Reign and U.S. Women's National Soccer Team goalie Hope Solo have revealed some significant problems within the National Women’s Soccer League.

It’s the topic of this week’s conversation between sports commentator Art Thiel and KPLU’s Kirsten Kendrick.

'A Great Service'

"Hope has always been a figure of controversy," Thiel said. "She speaks her mind. She does a lot of things that are unconventional.

"She also has a pending domestic violence charge with a fight she had with her family in Kirkland that remains unresolved and the Olympics have selected her - so that's another controversy.

"But in this case Hope Solo did a great service by unloading on the National Women's Soccer League for the atrocious conditions in that sport - specifically on Sunday in Rochester, NY."

'Can't Violate Standards'

"The game that was played was on a minor league baseball field that was completely too small for a soccer pitch because their regular stadium was being occupied by a concert," Thiel continued.

"This field is 58-yards wide, 12 yards narrower (than a regular soccer pitch). The photo of that field went around the world - got viral very quickly.

"No one who knows sports would think that that was acceptable. I mean, you're not going to have a 60-foot basketball floor. You're not going to have a 75-yard football field.

"There are standards! And you can't violate those standards or it isn't the same game."

Complaints Don't End There

"The things that were the most shocking in her blog were about health and safety," Thiel said.

"Inadequate, unsanitary bathrooms and training tables. No security around the field. There were times she played on a turf field that was so hot it melted her sneakers.

"It's just astonishing how bad this was. And I think that's the kind of clarion call that would be needed for the sport."

Mandatory Minimums

"Every sports league has start-up problems. This league has only been around for a few years. Some of this is sort of, kind of, expected but not when health and safety are at issue," Thiel continued.

"What's happening, simply, is that this is an entertainment business and consumers aren't spending the dollars to generate the revenues to get to a mandatory minimum."

Fixing The Problems

"In my view, it has to be individual philanthropy by people who are passionate about women's soccer and want to make a statement that this is here to stay.

"And that would include commercial advertisers who say, 'We're not concerned about return on investment, we want to be behind this project.'

"It would be nice to say that they should follow the NBA model where the NBA subsidizes the WNBA. The MLS - the men's league that the Sounders are in - isn't making money. The league, overall, is losing millions of millions of dollars. They're not about to take on another project to lose more money.

"It's got to come from sponsors. It's got to come from individuals. And, specifically, the owners of these teams have to agree to fund more things to make sure it's a mandatory minimum for safety and health.

"It could be that Hope Solo, despite all her controversies in her career, has really done a great thing for soccer, specifically, and maybe women's sports in general."


You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwestand

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.