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Brandi Chastain on strides in women’s soccer: “Imagine the ripple effect across the country”

USWNT legend and California Storm executive talks big picture.

Belgium v United States Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

U.S. Women’s National Team legend and current California Storm board member Brandi Chastain was on the Sactown FC podcast this week, alongside California Storm executive director and head coach Jamie Howard-Levoy, and among the topics discussed was the strides made over time in women’s soccer.

While Chastain won two World Cups herself and the current USWNT are back-to-back defending champions, that can gloss over the progress made to simply give girls and women a chance to play sports over the past 40 years.

“You almost can’t do the math on it,” Chastain said. “Especially for my generation, I was born before Title IX was enacted and I think my generation probably was the first that was really impacted by Title IX. We really took advantage, for the first time, of the ability to use education as a vehicle towards a sports career. Not that we thought it was a career, to be honest with you, that might be a loose term to use in this circumstance. We decided to play soccer because we loved the game. We decided to play soccer because we loved each other. We decided to play this game because it brought us so much joy.

“I think if you look at where soccer was in that early-80s time, when the first-ever national championship happened in 1982, to the present day, I remember after the ‘96 Olympics I was an ambassador for the U.S. Olympic Committee,” Chastain continued. “And they would send me to little pockets around the country that were all of a sudden really excited about soccer. I remember going to South Dakota, where they had 100 girls who had signed up for soccer prior to this whole big explosion of women’s soccer in the ‘90s, and after that, it was 10,000 girls had signed up...imagine the ripple effect across the country.”

Howard-Levoy, who took over the Storm after the death of owner and women’s soccer booster Jerry Zanelli last year, played collegiately at Sacramento State and agreed the expansion of opportunities for girls is tangible.

“We still have a long way to go, for sure, but you drive by any park and there’s girls out there playing, and so many more opportunities than there used to be,” she said.

Like the rest of the sports world, the Storm, who are set to play in the second-division WPSL again after being linked last year with a move to the NWSL, are awaiting the green light to commence in light of the coronavirus pandemic. But when that happens, if you are looking at supporting women’s sports and women’s soccer, you could do much worse than checking out some California Storm games at Papa Murphy’s Park.

Listen to the full Sactown FC podcast here.

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