US Soccer, Stop Trying to Make Fetch Happen

 

Change “fetch” to “One Nation. One Team.” and you have US Soccer.

Don’t get me wrong, I support our national teams, both of them. But to be honest not at the same level. US Soccer and I share that.
US Soccer is trying so hard to make #1N1T a thing. It is not a thing, it is a lame way to make people think the support for both teams is somehow equal. And while I think support should be equal, I don’t think 1N1T means what US Soccer wants it to mean.
Saying “One Nation. One Team.” doesn’t make anything equal, and US Soccer unwittingly is just pointing out the disparity in treatment between the men’s national team and the women’s national team.

We are One Nation, that is not in dispute by anyone in this respect, but we are not One Team. Not One Team in funding, or CBA, or marketing, or sales, or a myriad of other areas. We are also not One Team in the things that each national team needs in the way of support.
So at some level I am OK with not being One Team, I am almost happy that we are not truly One Team. In so many ways the women’s national team (and by my own opinion, women’s soccer in general) needs to be their own team. This does not mean that I think the women’s national team shouldn’t be afforded resources equal to the men’s team from funding to field surfaces and everything between, it means that the women’s team needs to be allowed to be heralded and supported by fans and the nation as it’s own unique entity, the same as should be afforded to the men’s national team.

By allowing teams to be unique entities under a One Nation banner each would be able to get the support & resources needed from US Soccer without the manufactured fan engagement 1N1T tries to force and fan engagement would be organic and long lasting. “One Nation. One Team.” just feels so false and self-serving to US Soccer that many, many fans don’t buy in and are resentful when they are force-fed the concept that feels disingenuous at its very roots. IF US Soccer really felt the national teams were One Team, the teams would have all the same resources available. I don’t think equal means identical, I think equal means what works best for each team. Each team program should decide what is best for their team – from development to t-shirt sales – within the US Soccer framework. That’s not to say that each program can’t share resources, just that they should fit with the team’s identity and speak to their fan base as well as to their standing on soccer’s world stage. Standards are not something that should be up for debate, both teams should have the highest standards, but other things are certainly able to be different.

US Soccer and it’s marketers have to embrace the different wants and needs of the teams and the fans and speak to that. They also have to understand the difference between wanting equality and wanting to celebrate your team as a unique entity. It’s one thing to want the same playing surfaces and another to want to be able to purchase a jersey in the cut and style that let’s a fan represent their team in a way that is both comfortable and appropriate to them. It is one thing to want a commensurate slice of the funding pie and another to be recognized in advertising as distinctly different. Equal and unique are not mutually exclusive.

In some instances using One Nation, One Team as a slogan works well, like the Olympic Games where bringing together many different sports, competing together at the same time, under one umbrella unites the nation as they oppose other nations. US Soccer has been trying to force 1N1T on the US fan since World Cup 2014 in Brazil, a men’s tournament where they opposed the world. A single nation, supporting a single team. In that context it worked well. But US Soccer is not One Team, it is two distinct teams at very different places in the world of soccer. To lump them together, under a slogan that serves neither when used together, is a disservice to both.

In some circles it’s unpopular to say that men and women are different in any way, but they are. Whether by nature or nurture, we see the world differently, we interact with the world differently and those differences aren’t a bad thing, just a different thing.