The U.S. women’s national soccer team has carved a spot in sports history on and off the field.
As the team won consecutive World Cups and the fourth world championship in its history in 2019, its players were simultaneously fighting for equal rights and equal pay.
This squad’s journey comes to an end Sunday at Soldier Field. The battle for equal pay will continue, and the success likely will persist, but the team will undergo some changes.
After the last game of the Victory Tour against South Korea, coach Jill Ellis will step down.
“I can’t say thank you [to Ellis] enough,” midfielder Julie Ertz said. “I mean, how many coaches can say they’re back-to-back World Cup champs? My whole career has been under her, so, obviously, I’m very thankful.”
Ellis, who was born in England, was named the eighth coach of the USWNT on May 16, 2014, and is the most successful with a 106-7-18 record. She’s the first U.S. coach to be named FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year twice.
The national team has continued to make history during its Victory Tour, setting an attendance record (49,504) for a women’s exhibition in Philadelphia.
On Sunday, attendance is expected to exceed 30,000, providing a worthy atmosphere for Ellis’ send-off.
“Obviously, she’s been a part of this team and U.S. Soccer for a long time,” goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher said. “I think it will be a good opportunity to not only celebrate our World Cup win, but give her a good farewell on her way out. We wish her nothing but the best in whatever she chooses to do next.”
As the team prepares to say goodbye to Ellis, it’s also preparing to close the chapter on the 2019 World Cup title.
The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo is nine months away, and the focus has shifted from celebration to preparation.
The team still feels the sting of Olympic disappointment after a quarterfinal exit against Sweden in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
This year, the energy is different. The Victory Tour was cut in half from 10 games four years ago, and the team realizes the celebrating has to be limited.
For one last time, though, the players will commemorate the history they made with Ellis as coach.
“She’s been a mainstay in the program,” forward Christen Press said. “We’re pretty sure that she’ll be around in some capacity. No matter what, the legacy she’s leaving us with after two World Cups is a strong foundation for the team to now go into the Olympics and continue the culture of winning.”