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National, Global Championships Put Spotlight on Female Player Development

The women’s game has made tremendous strides over the past decade. The historic 1999 U.S. World Cup victory made players like Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers and Brandi Chastain iconic role models for young girls and sparked a revolution in the soccer landscape for women.

With the 2011 Women’s World Cup already in motion and the W-League National Championship about to kick off in our own backyard this month, we have the opportunity to witness historic soccer moments both on screen and in person this summer.

We are at a pivotal moment for the development of more player pathways for our female players and it is imperative we take action to support and witness these developments. Christa Mann, PR Manager for Atlanta Beat — one of the six teams that compete in Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPS) — said, "More women and girls play soccer than any other sport in the United States, but things really took off after we won the World Cup on home soil in 1999.”

The International and National events taking place this summer give us the opportunity to create the same type of momentum for our sport, and I encourage all players and coaches to actively participate in watching the Women’s World Cup games and the W-League Final Four Championship games.

The W-League Final Four Championship games going on this summer (July 29 & 31) are not only a great way to enjoy the game in person with your family or team, but also offer crucial development opportunities for our young players. Going to the Sounders Women’s games offer a prime opportunity for players to see the game up close, and experience the mental and physical skills that are required at that level. I hope all players, coaches and soccer families take advantage of this great opportunity and come out to see the games.

With more games to watch than ever before, youth players have role models who they can emulate and aspire to be. Watching and studying the game is a crucial element to a player’s success. By watching the game from a young age, players will progress their game.

The 2011 World Cup in Germany, currently being played, marks another historic time for the women’s game. In total, 336 players representing 16 countries will play 32 matches to determine the champion of the world. From June 26-July 17, the best women’s soccer players will battle it out in hopes of being crowned world champion.

The development of the game on a national and global level has fostered more opportunities for female youth soccer players. From the university level and beyond, female players now have the opportunity to set attainable goals for multiple pathways and careers in the game.

In Washington, we seek to give our female players every possible opportunity for development and identification. Our Elite Player Development program (EPD) is the first step of elite development for a female youth player. Our hand-selected coaching staff, travel/event schedule and age-appropriate elite training curriculum enable the EPD program to be the highest echelon of programming for our players. As part of this mission, we continue to build relationships with top state programs to expose our players to the best competition across the nation.

Washington has become a leader in elite soccer development across the nation. From national championship appearances, to individual players, we have made a strong name for ourselves in the soccer world.

The most recent accomplishment by a Girls EPD player comes from Madison Schultz. A player on the Girls 1998 EPD team, Madison received an invitation to U.S. Soccer’s U-14 Girls’ National Development Program camp in Portland, Ore. The annual U.S. U-14 Girls’ National Team Identification Camp is scheduled for July 31-Aug. 7 at the University of Portland. The camp will feature the top 72 young female players in the country from across the four regions - North, South, East and West. This is the 13th year of the U-14 Girls’ I.D. camp, which started in 1999. We wish Madison the best of luck at the upcoming event!

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