Italy may seem like an odd place to host historic U.S. Women’s National Team matches, but for the third time in 31 years, the country that features one of the world’s greatest sporting landmarks – the famed Colosseum in Rome – has done just that.
Jesolo, Italy played host to the first U.S. Women’s National Team match in 1985, and in 2010, Padova was the site of the Women’s World Cup first leg playoff match in which the USA defeated Italy, 1-0, on a late goal from a young Alex Morgan. It was a victory that spurred the USA to the 2011 Women’s World Cup where it almost won the tournament before falling in penalty kicks to Japan.
Now, on April 26, 2016, in Monfalcone, Italy, the U.S. Under-16 Girls’ National Team broke new ground, becoming the first U.S. Women’s National Team at any level to face a team from the Middle East.
The fact that the USA defeated Iran, 6-0, in the 1st International Women’s Tournament of Gradisca – a tournament that has existed for boys’ U-15 teams for 13 years but is being played for the first time as a girls’ competition – is a side-note to the significance of the match, which is representative of the growth of women’s soccer worldwide.
While there is still a massive amount of work to be done in the development of the women’s game in many corners of the globe, and especially in the Middle East, the fact that girls’ teams from the USA and Iran could compete in an official tournament in Europe is a sign of things to come.
There are also other positive indications of a continuing positive shift for women’s soccer. Jordan will become the first country from the Middle East to compete in a FIFA event when it hosts the U-17 Women’s World Cup later this year, but the day a country from the Middle East – which features several excellent men’s national teams – qualifies for a Women’s World Cup, we can look back at this U-16 girls’ match as an early stepping stone.
“It was a really cool experience to be able to play a team that the U.S. has never played before and it’s a game that none of us will ever forget,” said Sierra Enge, who captained the USA in the match. “It was an incredible way to see how soccer can bring people and countries together. It also showed how soccer can help with the empowering of women across the world and we were humbled to be a part of that.”