Will USWNT success impact high school, club soccer in players' hometowns?

Photo: Michael Chow/USA TODAY Sports

Will USWNT success impact high school, club soccer in players' hometowns?

Girls Soccer

Will USWNT success impact high school, club soccer in players' hometowns?


Expect more players, both boys and girls, registering for club soccer all over the nation. You’ll likely see a big uptick in girls trying out for their high school teams.

That’s what happens every four years after watching the United State Women’s National Team on the biggest soccer stage — the World Cup.

The United States on Sunday captured its fourth World Cup title with a 2-0 win over the Netherlands.

The women’s month-long journey was felt in Arizona, which was where a couple of the national team members — Julie (Johnston) Ertz and Jessica McDonald — grew up playing club soccer.

Xavier Prep (Phoenix) coach Barb Chura figures the club numbers will increase but she’s not sure how big of an impact it will have on high school teams.

Underlining the Americans’ championship is the women’s fight for equal pay as men.

“The big story is equal pay,” Chura said. “You’re seeing now Budweiser and Adidas stepping up and are willing to sponsor and pay the women equal to the men. This will create more involvement in itself, because young girls have been captured by what the United States women have done and high school-age girls will now see the potential of making a living by playing the sport, so ultimately they may get more involved.”

Hamilton High School (Chandler, Arizona) girls soccer coach Eddie Hertsenberg attended the United States’ 2-0 championship win over the Netherlands in France with his wife.

“It’s not just about them winning but just as much about how they won — with confidence, determination, grit, and a special character that young girls and young women could watch and will now emulate,” Hertsenberg said. “It’s amazing to see not one but two Arizona girls making an impact at the highest level and on the world stage.”

Hertsenberg said there is always a special connection with the national team because it represents the country. Having a link to Arizona and the community in which he coaches strengths that.

Ertz, 27, a midfielder, married to NFL tight end Zach Ertz, was known as Julie Johnston at Dobson High School (Mesa, Arizona), where she never played on the high school team. She built her early  resume with the nationally renowned club team Sereno Soccer Club in the Phoenix area.

“I don’t think it will do much for high school girls soccer,” said Greg Johnson, who was the head girls soccer coach at Dobson when Ertz was at the high school. “Not sure about Jessica and if she played a minute at Cactus, but Julie never set foot on the field at Dobson.

“Julie was pretty driven to be the best and she was one of those players that gave up the high school experience to play club year-round. I did enjoy coaching Julie in the ODP program but she sure would have made a difference for me at Dobson back in the day.”

United States forward Jessica McDonald. (Photo: Michael Chow/USA TODAY Sports)

McDonald, a 31-year-old forward, was a phenomenal three-sport athlete in high school. At Cactus High School (Glendale, Arizona), she was on two state championship basketball teams. She set school track records in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters. McDonald set a 4A state record in the 400 at 55.26 seconds in 2005.

Like Ertz, McDonald’s soccer skills were gained through Sereno.

“With the local athlete impact of Julie Johnston Ertz and Jessica McDonald, players from Arizona know that striving for an opportunity to be part of this highest level is within reach, especially for west-side players who know of McDonald being from Cactus,” Phoenix Northwest Christian coach Jeff Penzone said.

“As a Cobra alum and neighbor of Traci, Jessica’s mom, it was great to see Jessica as part of the squad and participate in such a historic event.”

Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin coach John Greksa said the World Cup success by the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team will continue to galvanize the sport for young girls.

“Four World Cup championships in eight times this event has occurred, it proves this sport tops the list for girls and continues to gain traction,” he said.

But Greksa isn’t sure if this is going to impact the high school teams, because of how developmental academies have taken the elite of the elite from Arizona high schools.

McDonald made her school imprint in Arizona soccer after graduating from high school, starring at Phoenix College, where she played three sports.

San Tan Valley Poston Butte coach Dean Sale said he has already seen interest in his girls soccer program from the build-up to the World Cup. In the past the school had a hard time fielding a varsity team, let alone junior varsity, but last season nearly 70 players tried out for the team.

 “I believe it was in direct relation to the buildup of the Women’s World Cup,” Sale said. “All the publicity and press put it up front, and in turn more girls showed interest and wanted to try it.”

Corona del Sol (Tempe, Arizona) girls soccer coach Matt Smith said he is excited for the future of the sport in high schools after the World Cup.

“The most awestruck moment I have had in soccer was meeting Mia Hamm and for many of the young players today, it will be meeting Julie Ertz, Alex Morgan or Crystal Dunn,” Smith said. “If young kids don’t see heroes, it’s hard to dream. I also believe that this U.S. team is also paving the way for strong-willed women who will be leaders in society.

“That might be the most important factor as we revolutionize society to understand how to accept, promote and support strong women in business, law, medicine or politics as examples. Athletics is always a microcosm of society and these successful women are willing to reach for the stars.”


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