FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup stickers poised to become collector’s items

Members of the Canadian national women's soccer team hold the Panini logl (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Panini-Womans-World-Cup-2015-Canada-Stickers/1620112151551242?fref=photo)

Members of the Canadian national women’s soccer team hold the Panini logl (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Panini-Womans-World-Cup-2015-Canada-Stickers/1620112151551242?fref=photo)

With any world class sporting event, merchandising becomes all too obligatory. In this case, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is not immune. Hosted in Canada, firms such as Canada Post and the Royal Canadian Mint have already issued some treasured collectibles.

Another unique collectible appearing in retail outlets comes via global sticker giant Panini. Having issued a commemorative sticker album, this keepsake marks a unique milestone for Panini. Of note, it marks only the second time that a sticker album focused on female soccer is being released. The first has gained collector’s item status, issued for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Completing the set shall be an ambitious task. With over 430 stickers to accumulate, the challenge is the fact that one packet only features seven stickers. Therefore, a collector would have to purchase at least 60 packets and hope to not obtain one duplicate. Luckily, online forums exist for trading while Panini offers completists the chance to purchase remaining stickers online or via mail order.

Although the print run for the 2015 sticker album shall likely be higher than the 2011 edition (taking into consideration the size of the consumer market in Canada and the United States), the outcome is likely a very popular product. In North America, where the collecting trend is trading cards, there have never been an exclusive card set devoted to female soccer.

Over the last few years, Upper Deck has released a moderate number of women’s soccer trading cards. Said cards were featured in their World of Sport card sets (released in 2011 and 2012), along with a few high numbered cards in the Major League Soccer sets. Although Donruss (whose parent company is Panini) featured a few American-born female soccer players in a card set recognizing American sports heroes, such cards have never fully realized their potential.

With Panini’s sticker album, every athlete competing at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup shall be featured. Of note, this marks a milestone for many of these athletes as they have never been featured on a sticker or other type of collectible. Such a product can only help to stimulate interest in the game while allowing the competitors to feel a certain degree of celebrity status.

Perhaps the most important legacy of the Panini Sticker Album may be the ability to encourage a trading card manufacturer to release a full set devoted exclusively to women’s soccer. It would be even more encouraging if it was a Panini-owned company such as Donruss, Playoff and/or Score that helped get the ball rolling.

Christen Press among rising stars for USA Soccer at 2015 FIFA Women’s Worlds

As the United States looks to avenge their second place at the 2011 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, a budding superstar shall be looking to realize such ambitions. Having earned her first cap with the United States in 2013, Christen Press shall be making her World Cup debut this year.

Of note, the year 2015 has served as a coming-out party for Press, placing her name in the American soccer conversation. Recently, Press has been featured in a television advertising campaign for Coppertone, increasing awareness of the upcoming 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Having also been involved with several advertisements and promotional spots for Nike, Press is emerging as an endorsement darling.

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Quite possibly the most enjoyable moment in her road towards the World Cup occurred in May 2015. Press was featured on The Simpsons television program, along with teammates Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach. In addition, Press has graced the pages of several popular magazines, including the likes of Self, Howler, and Glamour (which also included several of her US soccer teammates).

Having quietly assembled a solid soccer career, the 26 year-old currently plays for the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League. During her first season with the club in 2014, she established herself as a franchise player. Having led the team with 6 goals, despite only appearing in 12 games, she was rewarded with the Red Stars Golden Boot.

Her finest performance of the season came on a Fourth of July 4 match against the defending champion Portland Thorns. Scoring twice in six minutes, Press’ efforts forced a draw, after being down 2-0 at halftime. In the aftermath of the season, she was recognized as a member of the league’s Second team All-Stars.

ChristenPressCoppertone

Prior to her NWSL heroics, Press gained her first taste of soccer glory when she was bestowed the 2010 Hermann Trophy, recognizing the best female player in NCAA soccer. Having graduated from prestigious Stanford University as the all-time leading scorer, she would earn 2011 Rookie of the Year honors in Women’s Professional Soccer.

Joining the Swedish Damallsvenskan, Press would add other remarkable accomplishments in her promising career. Logging time with both Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC and Tyresö FF, she was the top scorer in the 2013 Damallsvenskan season with 23 goals. Her legacy in the league was secured as she became the first American to claim the league’s Golden Boot award

In the last decade, Press has emerged as one of the finest players developed within the US program. From her roots with the youth national teams, including the under-20 and under-23 teams, she has emerged as a future star on the senior team. Although she attended the 2012 Summer Olympics in London as an alternate for the gold-medal winning US team, her first cap with the team would come on February 9, 2013.

Competing in a friendly against Scotland, Press (who was lined up as a right midfielder) would make an impression as she scored the first two goals of the match, and her career. With a superlative performance complemented by an assist, she was recognized as the Player of the Game. Her second cap also came against Scotland, resulting in her third career goal for a 2-0 victory.

With this accomplishment, Press became the third American woman to score two goals in her US national team debut. The first player to accomplish the feat was Cindy Parlow Cone in 1996, followed by Sherrill Kester in 2000. Press would continue to build on the momentum as she became the first (and only) US woman to record three goals in her first two games. As 2013 progressed, she would score four goals in her first four career matches, becoming the fifth US player to lay claim to such an achievement.

Should Press manage to provide such scoring heroics in a championship effort at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, it will elevate her into the same stratosphere as the likes of Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Abby Wambach. Taking into account that the US are among the favored countries to win the hotly contested event, it may prove to be the most competitive yet.

Coca-Cola and Christine Sinclair team up for historic ad campaign

As momentum for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup builds up among Canadian sports fans, Coca-Cola Canada has greatly contributed to sparking interest. Its most recent TV spot celebrates the women’s game while paying tribute to one of the Canadian team’s all-time greats.

Part of an unprecedented partnership with FIFA, the 2015 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup marks the first time that Coca-Cola is involved with the event. Said spot highlights Canadian team captain Christine Sinclair, an ad meant to encourage and empower women in sport.

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Titled, “It’s a Girl’s Game”, the spot was conceived by Sid Lee, and features Sinclair and a teenage girl playing a soccer video game together. Jumping into the video game, which features male players on the pitch, Sinclair is dominating the field. In the game’s aftermath, Sinclair is seen celebrating with the consumption of Coca-Cola. Afterwards, the screen features the inspirational line, “Happiness is seeing yourself in the game. Proud supporter of women in sport.”

Considering that some of the values of the Coca-Cola brand include concepts such as “inclusiveness, happiness, and optimism”, their support of FIFA’s Women’s World Cup is a superlative way of celebrating the growth and positive impact of female soccer in Canada. As a side note, soccer is one of those rare sports where men and women can truly play together and there is no gender barrier or disadvantage.

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Coca-Cola shall also feature a series of collector cans, commemorating the six host cities of the event. Adding to the collectability is a special edition aluminum bottle which shall be available at the FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy tour.

Ottawa, April 1, 2015: Nepean Hotspurs players with Nozomi Yamago of Japan, current FIFA World Cup winner, on first leg of the FIFA Women's World Cup trophy tour. Photo credit: Joe Lofaro

Ottawa, April 1, 2015: Nepean Hotspurs players with Nozomi Yamago of Japan, current FIFA World Cup winner, on first leg of the FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy tour. Photo credit: Joe Lofaro

In partnership with FIFA, Coca-Cola is also the sponsor for this 12-city trophy tour. Having started in the nation’s capital of Ottawa, Ontario on April 1, fans have the opportunity to get their photograph taken with the Women’s World Cup trophy. An added bonus for the fans in Ottawa was the chance to meet Nozomi Yamago, a member of the Japanese team that captured the FIFA Women’s World Cup when it was last contested in 2011.

Of note, this is the first time that the FIFA Women’s World Cup has toured Canada, only adding to the impact of the event for fans throughout the country. Other features of the tour including the chance to participate in a virtual game against the Coca-Cola Ultimate Goalie, along with an opportunity for fans to record a message of good luck.

Female soccer stars immortalized on commemorative Canadian postage stamp

As the 2015 FIFA Womens’ World Cup approaches quickly, host country Canada is immortalizing several of its soccer heroes. Canada Post is issuing a commemorative postage stamp featuring Christina Sinclair and Kadeisha Buchanan. In recognition of Japan’s status as defending World Cup champion, goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori also graces the image of said stamp.

Released on May 6, 2015, it pays homage to the superstar (Sinclair) that paved the way for soccer in Canada while recognizing the new generation (Buchanan) of Canadian women helping to build on such momentum. Among the Canadian dignitaries at the release of said stamp included the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport and responsible for Canada Post. She was joined by the Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport), along with Deepak Chopra, President and CEO, Canada Post.

Image obtained from http://www.canadapost.ca

Image obtained from http://www.canadapost.ca

Designed by Debbie Adams of Toronto, the stamps were printed on Tullis Russell paper with lithography of eight colors. In addition, the stamp depicts the name of every host city (and its respective province) during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which shall culminate with the championship game contested on July 5 at BC Place in Vancouver.

Of note, the stamps are available in booklets of ten, while the Official First Day Cover will be cancelled in Edmonton, site of the opening game between Canada and China on June 6, 2015. In addition, a collectible plaque featuring the image of the stamp is available and limited to only 1,000 units.

Since the London 2012 Summer Games, women’s soccer has become an integral part of Canada’s sporting conversation, elevating Sinclair to an iconic status once reserved for hockey heroes. Having played in more than 150 games for the Canadian national team, Sinclair is the only competitor to have scored a hat trick against US goaltender Hope Solo. Heading into the 2015 World Cup, this shall be Sinclair’s fourth consecutive appearance. Having also played at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games, she earned a bronze in 2012, while being honored as the flag bearer at the Closing Ceremonies.

Buchanan is one of the rising stars on Canada’s defensive unit, praised by head coach John Herdman as the “Christine Sinclair of defenders”. Currently competing at the NCAA level with the University of West Virginia Mountaineers, she is ranked number 6 in the US among collegiate and non-professional female competitors.

Comeback against Finland averts another disaster for host country at U20 FIFA Women’s World Cup

With a reputation as one of the most underachieving soccer nations in the world, the first game of the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup did nothing to provide Canada with any relief. Compared to the men’s program, Canada’s women have managed to provide hope for its fans. Having qualified in Women’s World Cups in years past, many of Canada’s female soccer heroes have become sporting heroes.

After a euphoric outcome at the 2012 London Summer Games, where Canada finished with a bronze medal (the highlight at the Games was Christine Sinclair becoming the first player to score a hat trick against Hope Solo), expectations have been raised for women’s soccer in Canada. With the traditional hockey superpower hosting the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the 2014 edition of the U20 event is supposed to be a teaser for hopefully great moments to come.

Canada captain Kinley McNicoll (left) joins the celebration as players mob Valerie Sanderson (19) after she scores the game tying goal as Finland's Emilia Iskanius walks away during second half action in 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup action in Toronto. Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Canada captain Kinley McNicoll (left) joins the celebration as players mob Valerie Sanderson (19) after she scores the game tying goal as Finland’s Emilia Iskanius walks away during second half action in 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup action in Toronto. Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Realistically, such glories may not occur for Canada this year. A heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Ghana in the opening round of group competition was compounded by the enthusiasm of 1,000 loud and excited fans rooting for Canada. Of note, Canada’s soccer sadness was part of a sad day in Canadian sport. On the same day, Eugenie Bouchard lost on home soil in the Rogers Cup while 2014 Sochi gold medalists Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson lost for the first time during the second running of The Amazing Race Canada.

Taking into account that Canada’s second game would be held at BMO Field in Toronto, the largest city in Canada, the pressure was only raised. Such pressure resulted in Canada facing a 2-0 deficit versus Finland at halftime.

Finland’s Juliette Kemppi opened the scoring within the first five minutes of the game, as Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan misplayed a corner. After the 20-minute mark, Kemppi intercepted Canadian Sura Yekka, a top prospect in Canada’s program, for her second goal. With 16,503 dejected supporters, a national TV audience was facing the fact that another loss would result in Canada having no chance at qualifying for the next round of play.

Three minutes after halftime, Janine Beckie nodded a short corner to raise hopes. This was followed by Nichelle Prince engaging in some playmaking abilities that tied the game. She would cut back a cross that Valerie Sanderson would bury into the net as the Toronto crowd was revived.

Suddenly, a miracle seemed possible as Prince capitalized on a rebound to provide Canada with its first lead of the game. Managing to hold on to the lead, it would prove to be one of the great matches in Canadian women’s soccer history.

In dramatic fashion, the third and final match of group play takes play against first place North Korea in Montreal. Should Finland manage to tie Ghana in their match, it would certainly ease pressures for host country Canada who could advance with a tie against North Korea. For Canadian head coach Andrew Olivieri, the objective is to win as it would guarantee Canada a spot in the quarterfinals.

Some of Canada’s brightest prospects in this tournament include the likes of Kadeisha Buchanan and 16-year-old Jessie Fleming. Should these two manage to initiate smart offensive attacks on the pitch, it may result in Canadian fans forgetting about the 1-0 loss to Ghana, focusing instead on the possible glories to come.

Lingerie World Cup of Soccer borders highly on entertainment

In years past, sports featuring women have bordered on entertainment employing gimmicks such as wearing minimal clothing. It has been employed in North America for over a decade with American-style football. Other sports such as indoor hockey and basketball have seen women adorned in bikinis to compete. Leading up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup of Soccer in Brazil, the Lingerie World Cup of Soccer was held.

Although FIFA holds its own women’s version of the World Cup, (of note, the next Women’s World Cup is slated in 2015), the Lingerie World Cup of Soccer is somewhat different. From the outset, this Lingerie version is not hosted, sponsored, recommended or endorsed by FIFA whatsoever. Contested as a 4-a-side competition, the pitch was nowhere near regulation size either.

Organized by Dutch TV channel Veronica, the fact that no details were revealed about the players competing does little to add any type of credibility to the event. Not knowing such details only cheapens the event, implying that the event was more about ratings and publicity than trying to build a brand. As a side note, Britain’s Daily Mail was the only media outlet that provided any type of mainstream coverage for the event outside of Holland.

Of note, the most recognizable name at the event was former Dutch international player Andy van der Meyde, who once competed for Everton in the English Premier League. Serving as referee for the event, van der Meyde oversaw competition featuring women from host country Holland, along with players from seven other countries, including Alergia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Korea and Spain. While the host country triumphed in the event, vanquishing Spain (who played the Dutch in the finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup), Germany and Brazil, such an event can only be interpreted as entertainment rather than true competitive sport.

In a sport as soccer, with its global popularity, there is no question that sex appeal can play a significant part in the popularity of a competitor, often resulting in endorsements. Observing some of the stars in soccer, male competitors such as David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, along with women such as Brandi Chastain, Alex Morgan and Hope Solo are definitely admired for their beauty as much as their athletic abilities. Despite such appeal, their dedication to the game, sportsmanship and skill are the qualities that have long lasting impact, generating a respect that exceeds any they may possess as sex symbols.

Despite the fact that the Lingerie World Cup of Soccer made news worldwide afterwards, elements such as shock value and sex appeal were the topics of discussion. The lack of player information and statistics will never build a potential fanbase. While the concept of lingerie soccer truly adds a different meaning to the “beautiful game”, it cannot undermine the efforts of women that have worked to build the sport and serve as role models for young girls. Although there are women in other parts of the world competing in sport in a state of undress, extending the careers of some collegiate athletes (who just love to play), while helping others aspire to potentially lucrative careers in modeling or television, the human element, in which dignity and sportsmanship are considered, must be factored in to the element of sports as entertainment.

Sporting sensation Sam Gordon a legend in the making

While her focus has shifted from football to soccer, Sam Gordon is a role model and an inspiration for women of all ages. Having captured the hearts and minds of sports fans the world over, Gordon is destined to continue making an impact for women in sport.

Football sensation Sam Gordon, WSF President Angela Ruggiero and Amanda Rivera, GoGirlGo! participant from the New York Junior Tennis League at the Women’s Sports Foundation Awards.  (Getty Images)

Football sensation Sam Gordon, WSF President Angela Ruggiero and Amanda Rivera, GoGirlGo! participant from the New York Junior Tennis League at the Women’s Sports Foundation Awards. (Getty Images)

In October 2013, she had the opportunity to be part of the 34th Annual Women’s Sport Foundation gala. With more than 50 female athletes in attendance, including living legends such as Billie Jean King, Annika Sorrenstam and Julie Foudy, it was one of many memorable moments during a year to remember for the 10 year-old Gordon.

Of note, she had the opportunity to appear on stage at the gala, along with Amanda Rivera, a participant from the New York Junior Tennis League. Both were joined by Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Winter Games medalist who talked about the life lessons she learned from playing ice hockey. It is a remarkable privilege to be able to share from the wisdom of Ruggiero. She also met Diana Nyad, who successfully swam from Cuba to Florida, showing that age knows no boundaries in sport.

Meeting swimmer Diana Nyad at the Women’s Sports Foundation Awards (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sam_Gordon6)

Meeting swimmer Diana Nyad at the Women’s Sports Foundation Awards (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sam_Gordon6)

Upon reflection, it seems hard to fathom that so much global acclaim could have emanated from just one online video posting. On November 5, 2012, her father Brent Gordon uploaded a video of gridiron highlights which resulted in over 2 million views. With her ponytail sticking out, the pint-sized Gordon cutting across the football field became an internet phenomenon.

Having compiled 35 touchdowns and 1,911 rushing yards in 2012, her first season of playing football, she would average 8.2 yards per carry, while also accumulating 65 tackles on defense. Hailing from South Jordan, Utah, Gordon competed in pee-wee football with the Herriman Mustangs (Gremlins age group of the Ute Conference). Nicknamed Sweet-Feet, she is only 28 kilograms but outran players twice her size.

Prior to playing pee-wee tackle football, Gordon played football with boys at recess, which actually created concern among one of the female teachers at her school. Through the encouragement of her father and the instruction provided to her from her older brother, Gordon did not quit football.

Quickly becoming a media darling, Gordon was interviewed by Katie Couric, appeared on Good Morning America and received an award at the Cartoon Network’s Hall of Game show. With her video having gone viral, the sports world also became intrigued with her highlight reel performances.

Photo credit: Kohjiro Kinno for Sports Illustrated Kids

Photo credit: Kohjiro Kinno for Sports Illustrated Kids

The National Football League would be the most influential member of the sports world to pay attention. In addition to tackling Marshall Faulk on the set of the NFL Network, she huddled up at a practice for the San Francisco 49ers. It would prove to not be the last time she had a connection to the 49ers.

As the invited guest of NFL commissioner Roger Goddell, Gordon and her family had the opportunity to attend Super Bowl XLVII, where the 49ers clashed with the Baltimore Ravens. Of note, she previously met the commissioner in December 2012 and attended a New York Giants game with him and his twin daughters. She even did a scripted segment with Alec Baldwin for an NFL awards show while the NFL made a $20,000 donation to charity in Gordon’s name.

Perhaps the most impressive accomplishment was the fact that she earned the special privilege of appearing on the cover of the Wheaties cereal box. It was such a newsworthy event that Gordon was interviewed about it on ESPN. A landmark moment in any athlete’s career, not only is Gordon one of the youngest athletes ever to appear on the box, she is also the first female football player to be honored.

Appearing on ESPN to discuss being featured on the famed Wheaties box

Appearing on ESPN to discuss being featured on the famed Wheaties box

With the transition to soccer, her sport of choice, she had the opportunity to meet the US National Women’s Team in Glendale, Arizona. The squad was there to compete in an exhibition match against Ireland, whom they defeated by a 2-1 tally. Prior to the game, she had the opportunity to kick soccer balls and throw footballs with members of the team.

Receiving one-on-one training from her idol, Abby Wambach, it was a dream come true for Gordon. After Gordon’s video went viral, Wambach was one of the first athletes to reach out to her on Twitter. Wambach gave her a tour of the stadium and even provided her with her own personalized US soccer jersey.

Perhaps one day she will wear a US soccer jersey with the Under-14 Development Team or at a World Cup, even possibly a Summer Games. While Gordon told Sports Illustrated Kids that she sometimes felt too much pressure in football because if she makes a mistake, it lets down the whole team, she also mentioned that she likes soccer because it is more fun with the other girls and others can help if she makes a mistake.

For now, sports fans can read about her remarkable journey in a book she has authored with family friend Ari Bruening. Titled Sweet Feet: Samantha Gordon’s Winning Season, it was published by Walker Books for Young Readers.

Signing copies of her book at The King’s English Book Store in Salt Lake City (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sam_Gordon6)

Signing copies of her book at The King’s English Book Store in Salt Lake City (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sam_Gordon6)

Released on October 15, 2013, the book features a foreword appropriately composed by Wambach. Including quotes from famous people she has met, there are also photos from her travels and celebrity encounters. The popularity of the book resulted in a book signing at The King’s English book store in Salt Lake City. Archiving and commemorating her journey through the printed word, it is more than just a keepsake but a resource of encouragement for any girl that wants to push the boundaries of what is expected of them and challenging the cultural norm.

Having emerged as a household name, she has maturity beyond her years. Competing as a midfielder in the beautiful game, it is the game she truly enjoys and in the end, the most important lesson learned from Gordon’s remarkable sporting journey is that one should compete in the sport that provides them with the most fun.

Members of Canada’s bronze medal winning soccer team turn heads in Sportsnet Magazine

After making history with the Canadian women’s soccer team at the London 2012 Summer Games, Kaylyn Klye, Lauren Sesselmann and Emily Zurrer are ready for their close-up. The trio was featured in Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty of Sports issue. With the soccer contingent winning Canada’s first medal in a Summer Games team sport this century, Canadian sports fans have a new group of heroes to cheer for.

Kaylyn Klye, Emily Zurrer and Lauren Sesselmann

Kaylyn Klye, Emily Zurrer and Lauren Sesselmann

Flown to Las Vegas, photographer Matt Barnes captured their captivating beauty throughout various Vegas venues. Kaylyn Klye, a 24-year old from Saskatoon was part of the Canadian team that also captured the gold medal at the 2011 Pan Am Games. Photographed at the Moorea Beach Club, Mandalay Bay and the Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage, Kyle modeled swimsuits from BCBGMAXAZRIA, Victoria’s Secret and Under Armour.

Originally hailing from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Lauren Sesselmann is a member of the red and white. At 29, she brings a veteran presence to the pitch. Like Kyle, she was also part of the 2011 Pan Am gold medalists. Like Kyle, some of her shots were taken at the Moorea Beach Club and the Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage, while the remainder was at Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden. In addition to swimsuits from Victoria’s Secret and Cascata, she modeled accessories from H&M, along with Target.

Emily Zurrer brings a Pacific flavor to the trio. Hailing from Crofton, British Columbia, the 26 year-old was adorned in Victoria’s Secret at the Moorea, while featuring accessories from Ray-Ban and H&M. She is also a teammate of Kyle’s with the Seattle Reign. Professionally, her career also included stops in Sweden (Dalsjofors GoIF), Germany (SG Essen-Schonebeck) and with Vancouver Whitecaps.

As a student at the University of Illinois, she was a three-time All-America selection, along with three nods to the All-Big Ten team. Like Kyle, she also has a charitable side which was evident in her involvement with Illinois’ Hometown Heroes program.

With a career that has included 50 caps with the Canadian National Team; she made her debut on July 3, 2004 at the tender age of 16. In a friendly against the United States, she played with legendary Canadian player Charmaine Hooper.

It would take another seven years before Zurrer would score her first goal for Canada. As part of a first place performance at the 2011 Cyprus Cup, it would prove to be an event to remember. Said goal was scored in a 1-0 triumph over Scotland. She would follow it up with the game-winning goal against Netherlands to clinch first place.

Born in Wisconsin, Lauren Sesselmann is a versatile player that can handle the forward and defender positions. As her father was born in Newfoundland (her mother was born in Michigan), she would claim Canadian citizenship in 2010. Although her first cap for Canada came at the age of 28, her veteran presence showed as she competed in the full 90 minutes.

Growing up, she admired Michelle Akers and Mia Hamm and would help her high school to a state championship. From 2001 to 2005, she would compete for Purdue University Boilermakers. After her collegiate career, she would hold six program records. Like Zurrer, she was also selected to the First Team All-Big Ten.

Professionally, she would compete with various franchises in the United States while accumulating 14 goals. Starring with FC Indiana in the W-League, she later moved on to the Atlanta Beat (where Hope Solo was a teammate) in Women’s Professional Soccer. This year, she is a member of FC Kansas City in the newly formed National Women’s Soccer League.

While she was also selected as the Sports Babe of the Day on the popular female sports site Babes Dig Balls, Kaylyn Kyle has a compassion that encompasses her inner beauty.

Serving as a Right To Play Ambassador, Kyle’s commitment in ensuring that the values of the best practices of sport and play can reach those in less fortunate parts of the world is a strong passion. In 2009, she was part of a fund raising effort with the National Team in which every goal scored and every shutout earned would result in a donation to Right to Play.

As a teenager, she competed with the University of Saskatchewan and made her debut for the national team in 2008 as a 19 year-old. Professionally, Kyle has competed with the Vancouver Whitecaps of the W-League (where Zurrer was a teammate in 2010), Pieta IF in Sweden’s Damallsvenskan and is a current member of the Seattle Reign in the NWSL.

While the 2012 London Summer Games was the coming-out party for Kyle, she paid her dues by representing Canada in two Under-20 World Cups. In 2008, FIFA’s Under-20 Technical Study Group noted she had excellent awareness of defensive duties, good timing of passes and composure in possession. She is one of only 26 women that have played in at least 50 games for Canada.

Looking as comfortable in a swimsuit as she does in a soccer jersey, it may come as no surprise that fashion is another of her great interests. With ambitions to be involved in the fashion industry once she hangs up her jersey for good, there is no question that the camera loves Kyle.

Photo credit to Matt Barnes

Carli Lloyd plays the game of her life

Following in the footsteps of legends like Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy, and Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd scored the two biggest goals of her career. In what was the game of her life, the 30 year old from New Jersey logged a goal in each half, as the US climbed to a 2-0 lead over Japan at Wembley Stadium. Despite a late goal by Japan, the US would clinch the gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Games.

This would not mark the first time that Lloyd would score big goals in Summer Games play. At the 2008 Beijing Games, she scored the game winning goal in a 1-0 victory against Japan. She would notch the gold medal winning goal in overtime versus Brazil. She would be named the US Women’s Soccer Player of the Year for 2008. While playing in the shadows of more popular players such as Alex Morgan and Hope Solo, she has quietly built a world class career that would be the envy of players worldwide.

With the tension of having lost the 2011 World Cup to Japan, Lloyd and her teammates faced tremendous pressure. The eighth minute of the 2012 Gold Medal match resulted in Lloyd’s first goal, a header off a pass from Alex Morgan that was meant for Abby Wambach. Before halftime, Lloyd nearly scored again but the Japanese goalkeeper Fukumoto made an impressive save to deny Lloyd. With nine minutes gone in the second half, Lloyd ran approximately 30 yards before launching a shot that resulted in the second score of the game.

Despite strong performances by Japanese players Saki Kumagai, Yuki Ogimi and Aya Miyama, a repeat of their championship performance at the 2011 FIFA World Cup was not meant to be. For Lloyd, the road to victory at London 2012 was marked by other goals.

At the Summer Games Qualifying tournament in Vancouver, British Columbia, Lloyd made her presence felt. In a Group B Match versus Mexico, the US bested them by a 4-0 tally, marked by Lloyd’s first career hat trick. In addition, she was named player of the match. For Lloyd, the honours would not end there. With a 3-0 defeat of Costa Rica in the semi-final of the Qualifying Tournament, Lloyd was named player of the match once more. She would finish with six goals (tied for the team lead) and three helpers, as the US went undefeated.

For Lloyd, her time in the spotlight was long overdue. The former Rutgers Scarlet Knights soccer star (named 2001 Big East Rookie of the Year), has had 141 caps with 40 goals with the US women’s team. The year 2007 marked the dawn of Lloyd’s presence as a prime time player. She was the top scorer and most valuable player at the 2007 Algarve Cup. In addition, she played in the 2007 FIFA World Cup, a first for her. In starting three first round games, she would finish the World Cup third on the team in scoring, with nine tallies and three assists.

She competed for the Chicago Red Stars in the first season of Women’s Professional Soccer in 2009. Despite making 14 starts, she scored two goals and recorded an assist.  At the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup she scored her first ever goal in World Cup play during a 3-0 win versus Colombia. Lloyd also left her mark in one of the most dramatic and exciting World Cup games ever played. After fighting back from a 2-1 deficit to force overtime against Brazil, Lloyd had a penalty kick against the Brazilians, which would help the US advance to the semifinals. A harbinger of things to come, Lloyd would deliver the goods once again in a golden day of retribution.

Hope Solo covers the Games

Heading into the London Summer Games, Hope Solo has found her celebrity status enhanced by appearing on the covers of Vogue (with Serena Williams, a rare honor for a female athlete), and on Fitness magazine.  Solo appears in a gold swimsuit on the Vogue cover, while adorning a stars and stripe bikini for Fitness.

While beautiful on both covers, her celebrity status must not be a distraction for the US soccer team. Since the retirement of Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, and Brandi Chastain from the US Women’s Soccer program, Solo has become the face of USA Soccer. As a goaltender, Solo is in a pressure packed situation, which only increases when a goal is allowed.

During the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Solo became the media darling of the event for Team USA. She parlayed her popularity by appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated, revealing her physique in ESPN’s Body Issue, and displaying her sex appeal as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Maxim Magazine recently named her the sexiest athlete of the 2012 London Games.

Of note, Alex Morgan also gained popularity after the 2011 World Cup. She was in the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in only body paint. In addition, she was listed as one of Maxim Magazine’s hottest athletes for London 2012. On the soccer pitch, it is of great importance that the newfound celebrity status of Morgan, Solo, and others does not interfere with performance.

London 2012 marks the return of Solo to the world stage since the 2011 World Cup. Any failure on the part of USA Soccer will not only spell disaster for the program, but tarnish Solo’s image as a celebrity. In early July 2012, a warning from the US Anti Doping Agency that Solo tested positive for the banned substance Canrenone in a urine test must not prove to be a harbinger of misfortune. Although Solo may be the most popular player on the team (and she provided full co-operation to the USADA), it is important that said popularity does not lead to resentment in the locker room should struggles emanate early on.

During the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Solo criticized then head coach Greg Ryan for benching her in favor of Brianna Scurry for a semi-final game versus Brazil. After being dismissed from the team and not participating in the post-2007 World Cup tour, Solo could have easily quit the team. Instead, her gold medal performance at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games led to redemption, while her endearing perseverance in 2011 made her an American hero, and an unexpected role as a celebrity.

Should the USA endure any initial struggle, it will be up to Solo to act as a true leader and ensure that the disappointment of 2007 does not repeat itself. As a role model, sex symbol, and world class athlete, the London Games will define Solo’s career as one of greatness, or one of unmet expectations.