The third time was not a charm for the U.S. women’s national soccer team. After winning the Women’s World Cup in 2015 and 2019, the number one ranked team in the world suffered its earliest exit ever from the tournament with a round of 16 loss to Sweden in penalty kicks on Sunday. This year’s event marked the last appearance at the World Cup for forward Megan Rapinoe and midfielder Julie Ertz.
The team managed only one victory – a 3-0 win over Vietnam in its opening match – and scored but one goal in its final three matches against the Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden. The performance on the pitch before, during, and after matches led to criticism from the media and even former players.
On Monday’s show, Megyn was joined by Clay Travis, author of American Playbook, to discuss the USWNT’s stunning fall from grace and what comes next for the team.
What Went Wrong
There will be plenty of time to dissect what went wrong for the USWNT, but there is no getting around the level of play itself. “This team performed woefully, and they performed like a group of individuals,” Travis noted. “They were atrocious… and they were very fortunate to even make the knockout stage.” He said they failed to live up to their “individual talents.”
One reason may be off the field distractions. “Unfortunately, I think that’s the culture that was created in the space between 2015 when they won that first World Cup, 2019 when they repeated, and then this,” he shared. Throughout the competition, the USWNT was under fire for the lack of patriotism on display during the playing of the national anthem before matches.
Megyn has called the behavior – which included just a handful of the 11 players on the pitch placing their hands over their hearts and even fewer mumbling a few words to “The Star Spangled Banner” – an “embarrassment” and “disgrace,” and her opinion hasn’t changed. “It was overall just an embarrassing performance for this team from the start,” she shared. “They’ve donned the uniforms of the United States of America, but they refused to honor anything we stand for and, therefore, I’m thrilled they lost.”
Travis said their actions are emblematic of culture today. “They aren’t proud of America and that’s because they’re being taught America’s history is one of tragedy and not triumph, of exploitation and not… the story of the greatest country that’s ever been founded in the history of the world,” he explained. “If you are embarrassed by some of your country’s history, which is what a lot of these kids are being taught, then you aren’t that excited to represent.”
Megan Rapinoe Retires
Once a star forward, Rapinoe, 38, was used off the bench in her final World Cup (she had announced before the tournament began that it would be her last). On Sunday, she entered the game in the eighth minute of extra time and later would sail her penalty kick over the net. She was seen smiling and laughing after the miss. She called it a “sick, sick joke,” and Travis said Rapinoe’s reaction “epitomized the way that U.S. women played this entire World Cup.”
Speaking to the media after the match, Rapinoe said she is most proud of what the USWNT accomplished away from the field, including equal pay. “I think this team has always fought for so much more, and that’s been the most rewarding part for me,” she said. “Of course, playing in World Cups and winning championships and doing all that – to know that we’ve used our really special talent to do something that’s changed the world forever, I think that means the most to me.”
Throughout the tournament, Megyn has been critical of the veteran who has made clear that she has no interest in standing for the national anthem or displaying any sort of pride in the country that helped her make a reported $7 million in 2022 alone.
As Megyn shared, Ric Grenell, who served as acting director of national intelligence under former President Donald Trump and was the first openly gay person to hold a Cabinet-level position, summed it up well on X (formerly known as Twitter):
“[Rapinoe] made herself the face of Women’s Soccer while pretending like America was a terrible place to live. She’s left a wake of chaos and destruction for the Women’s team with her selfish antics.
She’s an out, green haired lesbian who made millions pitching @SUBWAY. She fails to understand she’d get imprisoned in 69 countries around the world for simply being gay – and 9 countries would kill her for being gay.
America is the greatest country in the world for lesbians. She’s been ungrateful for what she was given by God.”– Ric Grenell, August 6, 2023
At the end of the day, activism seemed to trump athletics. “In this case, they didn’t have their eye on the ball,” Megyn said. “They had their eye on their woke activism.” Rapinoe, in her view, is to blame. “Her imprint on the team has now really made its mark, and I’m thrilled she’s gone,” she explained. “I feel like there’s a future now for this team, potentially, without this woman at the helm.”
Politics On and Off the Pitch
To Grenell’s point, Travis said there was an opportunity for the USWNT to advocate for women’s rights around the globe. “They could have said, ‘Look, we don’t agree with everything that goes on in our country just like every person on the planet doesn’t agree with everything that goes on in their country, but you know what the lesson of the Women’s World Cup is overwhelmingly? You can almost pick the winner of every women’s soccer match in the world just by grading the countries on how much they allow women to have basic human rights,’” he said. “And this is the story that I think would have been really compelling for the U.S. women to share.”
The success of the USWNT, he said, is directly tied to the freedoms women enjoy in the U.S. “We are not only exceptional at soccer, we are exceptional when it comes to having talents everywhere,” Travis shared. “They could have used America as an example of a bright and shiny city on a hill that represents the full fruition by and large in the world of what women are able to accomplish. Instead, they denigrated America on the global stage.”
Ultimately, Megyn said the USWNT would be wise to learn that their politics do not belong on the pitch. “Just play the damn soccer,” she said. “No one gives a sh-t what your personal and political views are.” She suggested those who are interested in proselytizing their beliefs run for office. “As a private citizen, get your name on the world stage and say what you believe – that’s fine,” she concluded. “On the soccer field, shut up.”
You can check out Megyn’s full conversation with Travis by tuning in to episode 602 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.