How the 1999 World Cup champions’ biggest win came at the bargaining table

A staredown between the US womens national squad and US Soccer over the 1999 forces victory safarus changed the relationship between the team and their boss forever

On the morning after the national team won the 1999 World Cup, the celebrations prolonged. While the players were off to do a win parade at Disneyland, the representatives of the US Soccer Federation opened the athletics pages of neighbourhood newspapers, enthusiastic to see the coverage of the victory.

The Los Angeles Times applied the headline” America the Bootiful” alongside a large photo of Briana Scurry’s penalty-kick save. Some of the US Soccer brass probably cracked a smile at the pun. But when they turning now to sheet 5, they investigated a different headline–one that they are able to touch off a bitter dispute and mark a permanent change in the relationship between the players and their boss, the federation. It was on a full-page advertisement for an indoor victory tour the national team players had scheduled for that fall.

Hank Steinbrecher, the secretary-general of the united nations of US Soccer, was sickened. The musicians were announcing themselves the All-American Soccer Stars but basically planned to travel to 12 municipalities as the World Cup-winning US national team to play exhibition competitions against an all-star team of world internationals. Robert Contiguglia, the president of US Soccer, was furious.

But the players had already requested US Soccer how the federation planned to capitalize on hosting the Women’s World Cup on dwelling clay. The ask they got back, essentially, was that the confederacy wasn’t really thinking about that.

” We pulped them on it and said, Hey, what are you doing? What are the plans ?” retains Julie Foudy.” They said we were going to Africa. We was exactly, Africa? We need to grow the game here. Why are we going to Africa? We “ve never” even done so Africa .”

Yes, for some reason, US Soccer president Robert Contiguglia and secretary general Hank Steinbrecher wanted to send the players on tour in South africans and Egypt after the 1999 World Cup, when interest in the team at home would be at an all-time high.

To this day, the players don’t understand what US Soccer’s higher-ups was just thinking. To say the federation shortcoming prudence or ambition to help the national team keep up its force is to applied it mildly. There was no strategy to grow interest in the athletic from the federation held accountable for it, to say nothing of cashing in and hosting games that would exchange lots of tickets. It was a strange response from the federation that only extended the team’s mistrust of their boss.

” They had nothing for us ,” Kate Markgraf says.” They had no plan. They didn’t think the World Cup would be what it was .”

So the players started talking through detailed information on a expedition they were able turn in themselves. They agreed to hire event-marketing firm SFX, which could handle logistics of the tour. But it wasn’t done in secret behind US Soccer’s back, as the federation last-minute clear it seem.

Langel and the players mail a letter addressed to US Soccer apprise the federation of their plans, but officials really dismissed their words. The unit aimed again just before the Women’s World Cup to see if US Soccer wanted to have anything to do with the tour.

” They exactly stopped dismissing us ,” Langel says.” I said, Look, we’re going ahead with this. Do you want to do it with us? But they didn’t believe we could get it off the soil. They basically told us: Try. So we decided to go ahead with the safarus on our own .”

For the national team, the expedition represented a unique opportunity to stimulate some real coin: a guaranteed $1.2 million for the 12 -city tour. Most importantly, it was income shared equally among all the players, $60,000 each, because the top players–those like Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy–insisted it be that way.

It was another step toward assuring financial independence as more individual musicians started to earn their own endorsement distributes and didn’t need to rely on US Soccer as much. By then, Nike had expanded its footprint in football beyond Mia Hamm. They’d lent Brandi Chastain, Briana Scurry, Tiffeny Milbrett, and Tisha Venturini to their roster of sponsored jocks and peculiarity all five of them in ads that promoted the Women’s World Cup. Nike’s swelling into women’s soccer was a game-changer for the players who benefited from it.

” Soccer was my surface gyp. There was no money in it primarily. But I came right when Nike came in, and I started to get a little bit of fund ,” says Briana Scurry.” It was impeccable occasioning because if it wasn’t something that would allow me to pay my statutes, I would’ve had to stop–we all would’ve had to, and that would’ve really been a shame .”

Not everyone had that same opportunity for sponsorship, but now, with this collective group effort to launch a tour–by the team and for the team–financial discretion was available across the board. It was a payday for all players.

And in another sense, the players were doing the federation’s activity for them. The expedition countenanced the national team to play in front of love who did not attend World cup finals tournaments, which would flourish a devotee cornerstone at home in America. Yes, it caused the players money, but it also spread the gospel of the Beautiful Game, as soccer is known around the world. It did everything that US Soccer’s aimles plan for an African tour would not.

As Julie Foudy placed it in a press statement after the safarus was announced:” The one thing we’ve learned recently is that our devotees want to see more of the americans and more of soccer. We’re answering their entitle .”

So there were Hank Steinbrecher and Robert Contiguglia opening their newspapers on the morning of July 11, 1991. They were “shocked” by the tour the players advised them about and fierce the players weren’t running together with the African tour, which would’ve certainly propagandized the national team back into related obscurity.

” US Soccer travelled apoplectic ,” Langel says.” They immediately hired a Chicago law firm, and they cast individual complaints to my ordinance house that they’re going to go into federal field to get an injunction .”

An injunction, if conceded, could have stopped the expedition in its roads. John Langel and his legal team worked through the darknes to prepare their responses to try to stop the federation from aiming a court-ordered moratorium on the safarus. Then came two days of marathon confronts between Langel and Alan Rothenberg, the is chairman of the 1999 Women’s World cup finals coordinating committee. Rothenberg, who had been the president of US Soccer through 1998, toy a kind of negotiator role.

” They achieved during success and notoriety, and they had to properly take advantage of that ,” Rothenberg says.” But to go around on tour as a unit , no matter what they call themselves–effectively as the national team–that freedom belonged to the federation .”

In a panicked move to retake control, US Soccer offered$ 2 million to virtually buy up the safarus from the national team and send them to Africa as schemed. Even though this would be more money than they had ever been paid for playing soccer, the players were having none of it.

” We was exactly, You haven’t spent any time on this. You are asking us to jump-start ship and go with you guys ?” Foudy says.” After this sell radical to be used in us , not even knowing if the World Cup was going to be a success or not? They’re the ones who believed in us, and you never did. No, fastened you .”

Negotiations with US Soccer became incredibly tense and acrimonious. It was as if everything–contract contraventions, shortage of communication, and supposed slights–was finally coming to a manager. When Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, and John Langel met with US Soccer chairperson Robert Contiguglia and federation attorney John Collins in Washington DC, the players were ready to stand up.

At one point during a fit, Contiguglia was dismissive of the contrived victory expedition and alleged the players of” adulterating the athletic” by playing at indoor venues. Mia Hamm hurled the comment right back at him.

” You squandered the word adulterate ,” Hamm said.” Well, I’ll use the word adultery because we feel like you cheat on us all the time .”

Contiguglia was taken aback. The actors, who felt like US Soccer was too worried about the men’s team, had had enough, and they weren’t going to back down, even under the menace of a lawsuit.

” If you litigate us, I’m prepared to never play for US Soccer again ,” Hamm told Contiguglia. Then she turned to her teammate.

” I don’t know about you, Julie, but I feel pretty good about what we’ve done with our vocations ,” Hamm said.” I prevailed a World Cup in’ 91, I triumphed a World Cup in’ 99, I triumphed an Olympics in’ 96. I’ll call it a day .”

Foudy nodded.

” Yeah, me too ,” she replied.” I’m pretty glad walking away from the game .”

” I’m sure Nike will like that you’re walking away from the game, too ,” Foudy said to Hamm. Foudy was deftly announcing out the federation’s begrudged sponsorship with Nike, which was then worth about $15 million per year.

Asked about these particular negotiations now, Contiguglia says he doesn’t remember them, but he does recall that over the years, the relationship between the federation and the players was hostile. At one point, he declares,” I did lose my cool ,” but he lends:” The last-place concept I ever craved was an adversarial relationship with our athletes .”

” That’s what happens in collective bargaining when you don’t have a relationship of mutual trust ,” Contiguglia says.” It was a gruesome, grim home. It was not healthful, but I blame lawyers .”

While the confederation was certainly unhappy the players dared them by moving forward with the indoor tour, there were other practical concerns behind their opposition to the tour. The federation had its own patrons at the time, and if the national team was going on an unsanctioned expedition where they used a competitor’s paraphernalium or wore another company’s costumes, it was able to detriment US Soccer’s existing business relationships.

After two days of satisfies in DC–and some sharp-tongued exchanges between the organization and the players–the two sides worked out an understanding: The tour would incorporate all of US Soccer’s existing sponsors. The expedition the players had worked on was going to happen after all.

After that agree, the players and Langel were fired up. They knew the selection board had some real leverage for the first time. Outside the second meeting, Foudy and Hamm joked with Langel:” Who’s driving the bus? We’re driving the bus! That’s right, we’re driving the bus !”

The tour belonged to the players , not US Soccer, and it caused them a new collective revenue stream that wasn’t controlled by the federation. It was set to earn them $2.4 million over two tours–one after the 1999 World Cup and one again after the 2000 Olympics–and, in addition to the ticket sales, the team also indicated balls and photos, which engendered another $250,000 to be shared. Eleven of the players appeared in a Chevrolet commercial together. The actors were procuring business exemption “theyve never” experienced before.

As part of the final fathom to realize US Soccer happy, the players dedicated the confederation the opportunity to take over the tour afterward if they wanted to do it again. Now, it is built into the national team’s agreement, and to this day, after major tournaments, the team still goes on the same victory tour. It begins with the 1999 crew and a “shocking” full-page ad, and it has lasted two decades.

This is an extract from The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer by Caitlin Murray.

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