Former women’s soccer forward Carli Lloyd criticized the “culture” of the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) as the “worst she’s ever seen,” during a Wednesday podcast appearance on Hope Solo Speaks.
Lloyd, who retired from professional soccer in 2021, joined longtime friend and former teammate Solo on the maiden voyage of Solo’s podcast. Solo spoke at length at the beginning of the podcast about the USWNT equal pay settlement, which Solo criticized, labeling the $24 million settlement from U.S. Soccer Federation “pathetic.”
“The reason for my sadness, the reason I feel gutted, kicked in the stomach, the reason why I feel betrayed and a bit hopeless is because the settlement is pathetic,” Solo said during the podcast.
Solo, who retired from professional soccer in 2016, continued:
After fighting for years for equal pay starting in 2015, the players still went on and agreed to a less-than-equal CBA. They continued to believe in the promises of the federation. … They were outclassed, outmaneuvered and then, finally, after pumping the brakes and doing a 180 in the fight of our life, they decided to show up to the party and they got hustled.
The main player Solo referenced is likely controversial team captain Megan Rapinoe, who has been the player most visible in USWNT’s media appearances pushing for equal pay for women soccer players. Rapinoe gained notoriety as an avid kneeler during the playing of the National Anthem before soccer matches.
Solo has criticized Rapinoe for the effect the kneeling had on the team. Solo said in August of 2021 that Rapinoe would “bully” players into kneeling:
It’s tough. … I’ve seen Megan Rapinoe almost bully players into kneeling because she really wants to stand up for something in her particular way. But it’s our right as Americans to do it whatever way we’re comfortable with, and I think that’s really hard being on the main stage right now with so many political issues for athletes. … There’s a lot of pressure, and ultimately at the end of the day, our number one focus should and has always been to win first.
Lloyd expressed her disappointment in what the culture of the team has become in recent years, without using specifics or naming names. “Even within our squad, the culture has changed,” she said. “It was really tough and challenging to be playing these last seven years. To be quite honest, I hated it.”
It wasn’t fun going in. It was only for love of the game, really, for me. I wanted to win and I wanted to help the team, but the culture within the team was the worst I’ve ever seen it.
For her part, Lloyd has been a star player for women’s soccer, making the game-winning goals in the 2008 and 2021 Olympics.
“[Lloyd] first played for the USWNT in 2005, winning Olympic Gold medials in 2008 and 2012, and World Cups in 2015 and 2019. For both Olympic titles, she scored the game-winning goals,” the NY Post reported.
Lloyd was the only U.S. team member who refused to kneel before the game against Australia at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“Star forward Carli Lloyd, 39, stood with her hands on her hips ahead of the bronze-winning game as the rest of the USWNT’s ten starters, and the team’s coaches and staff members, knelt on the turf at Kashima Stadium, photos show,” the NY Post reported in August 2021.
Team USA ended up with the bronze medal that year.
Then-President Donald Trump blasted the team for taking the knee. “If our soccer team, headed by a radical group of Leftist Maniacs, wasn’t woke, they would have won the Gold Medal instead of the Bronze. Woke means you lose, everything that is woke goes bad, and our soccer team certainly has,” Trump said at the time.
According to U.S. Soccer, the fight for equal pay has been challenging for players, but they still plan to push forward on to their next goal of holding FIFA responsible for equal prize money in the upcoming World Cup.
“We have a lot of work to do and continuing to rebuild the relationship with the players,” U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone said Tuesday. “We have to come to a solution on the CBA agreements. But the focus now shifts to growing the game from a commercial perspective with our strategic partners, and having the players on our side to go hand in hand and to encourage FIFA to equalize the World Cup prize money.”
Lloyd is looking positively on the future of her sport, though.
“I’m hoping the future is bright and some things change,” she concluded.