Sunday, December 28, 2014

U.S. national team star Carli Lloyd: 'Maybe partnering with MLS would be beneficial' to revitalize professional women's soccer

There wasn't much of a media presence at the end of Friday morning's U.S. women's national team practice at Princeton University. But for the reporters who were there, midfielder Carli Lloyd was very much in demand.

U.S. national team star Carli Lloyd: 'Maybe partnering with MLS would be beneficial' to revitalize professional women's soccer

PRINCETON, N.J. - There wasn't much of a media presence at the end of Friday morning's U.S. women's national team practice at Princeton University. But for the reporters who were there, midfielder Carli Lloyd was very much in demand.

That's no surprise. Lloyd is a native of Delran, N.J., so this month's training camp is taking place in a venue that is close to her backyard as the national team will ever get.

Lloyd is also rarely short of things to say when a microphone is placed in front of her. So I wasn't particularly surprised when the women's national team press officer offered Lloyd for an interview without my having to ask.

As evidenced by the headline of this post, I got even more than I expected.

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How nice is it to have the national team together for two whole weeks, and pretty close to your home town too?

It's great. It's no different - we're used to being together for way longer periods of time. We had a great two-week camp in Florida [in late April], and I'm loving being back in Jersey. I live 30 minutes from here. On some of the off days, I get to go home.

This is a tremendous stadium, the hotel's great – all the accommodations are great. It's beautiful weather. You can't ask for more.

The competition is for 18 roster spots this time instead of the usual 23. How much does that affect the atmosphere within the team?

It gets tough. But that's the nature of this business. There are cuts, there are people who are in the starting lineup or not in the starting lineup. I think it's been really competitive, and it's been really good here, and Pia [Sundhage] is going to have some tough decisions to make.

Everyone has given their all, they're working hard, and we're all close. We all have fun together. It's definitely going to be a sad thing when there are cuts made, but unfortunately it's an 18-woman roster.

You've got almost all the big nations coming up in games over the next few weeks: China on May 27, Sweden and Japan in a tournament in Sweden in mid-June, then Canada on June 30, and finally France to open the Olympics on July 25.

With France and Japan in particular, how important is it to open the Olympics with such a tough game, and to have another game against Japan as a warmup?

This is what it's all about. We want to play teams that challenge us, and we have a great four games left [before the Olympics].

Playing Japan, they're playing great soccer right now, and they're challenging us. We're learning from them and getting better from them. France is another great team. They play similar soccer to Japan – they're technically good with the ball, they make good runs, they're always moving.

So it will be tough. Usually, you find yourself opening up with not the strongest opponent in your group. You're kind of easing into it. This time, we've got a tough one right from the start. But I think it's good, and this will be the final of the group. We've got to go after it, and just take it one game at a time.

Lastly, with WPS announcing that it has shut down, where do things go from here? Not just for you and the senior national team, but for the generation of up and coming players that is on the cusp of the national team. What happens to the player development process now?

Well, today is a sad day. It's very unfortunate that this is happening for a second time. That's not something that you want to see.

I think that we just need to get investors in again that are kind of all on the same page. I don't think the pay can be as glamorous as it has been in the league. I think that we just need to be careful and start out really small with everything, and work our way up.

There are players that are playing overseas that have had that opportunity, and we just kind of go back to what we have been doing with this team. There's an under-23 team, and hopefully we can get some more people in the mix after this Olympics and develop.

But it is a shame. I think a lot more people will be going overseas to play. Which is good, because Pia's still looking at players that play overseas, so there's still a chance for people to make this team.

Can a fully professional women's league that exists independent of other organizations in American soccer stand on its own?

There are rumors going around that the USL may try to build off its semi-pro W-League and create something at a higher level. There are also plenty of people out there who think the long-term answer is for Major League Soccer to get involved with a women's league. What do you think?

To be honest, I'm not an expert in that category. I just play, and kind of worry about things when they come. There are a lot smarter people out there who can try to figure that thing out.

I hope that it can come back. I think maybe partnering with MLS would be beneficial, seeing the WNBA with the NBA. I think there are a lot of logistics, and things that need to get figured out and worked out, and hopefully it can work.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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