Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair cover EA Sports FIFA 16

With EA Sports release of FIFA 16, it resulted in an unprecedented milestone for the popular video game producer. Two different versions of the game featured women’s soccer superstars joining Lionel Messi on the cover. The version used for Xbox features Women’s World Cup champion Alex Morgan on the cover. Building on the momentum of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, legendary Canadian team captain Christine Sinclair graces the cover of the game for PS4.

Of note, this is not the first time that EA Sports has featured women in its popular video games. Women’s ice hockey legends Angela Ruggiero and Hayley Wickenheiser were featured in an NHL video game themed release.

Although a decision had been made prior to the Women’s World Cup concerning Morgan, there had never been a formal announcement. As a side note, an advertisement in the official program for the WWC actually features Sinclair on the cover of an EA Sports game. Following the emotional victory by the US in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, there was an online petition looking to get the entire team on the cover.

Recognizing the growth of women’s soccer in the United States and Canada, along with the cultural impact that its stars are having on both sides of the border, EA has rightfully chosen to celebrate their impact by doing more than just a cover appearance. Adding to the magic is the fact that gamers have the option to utilize female soccer players in the game. Among the 12 different women’s national team that can be selected are Canada, England, Germany and the US.

An offline tournament plus online friendly matches comprise part of the experience. For fans looking to excel at a higher level of play, the game also offers the FIFA Trainer, a new feature that provides instruction.

EA Sports began experimenting with a prototype in 2012. In looking to ensure authenticity, from details as minor as hair animation, members from the US and Canadian teams visited EA’s studios in Vancouver, participating in motion capture. The highly anticipated release date for FIFA 16 is September 22.

USA soccer heroes appear on four collectible Sports Illustrated covers

Building on the momentum of having Ronda Rousey grace its cover, Sports Illustrated (SI) has made a profound statement on the growing impact of women’s sport. Taking into account that late spring is playoff season in the NBA and NHL, it would have not been surprising to have a cover devoted to one of their sports. Instead, SI rightfully devoted their cover to a preview of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Abby Wambach on 1 of 4 variant covers for Sports Illustrated's 2015 World Cup coverage

Abby Wambach on 1 of 4 variant covers for Sports Illustrated’s 2015 World Cup coverage

In fact, it is actually four different collectible covers that can be found on newsstands. Of note, four members of the United States national women’s soccer team are featured on said covers; led by forwards Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach and midfielder Carli Lloyd. As a side note, subscribers receive a team cover, which features Leroux, Lloyd, Morgan and Wambach, who have collectively scored 331 goals in international play..

For Morgan, there may be a slight tinge of irony. Like the aforementioned Rousey, both have appeared in SI’s world-famous Swimsuit Issue. The chance for both to make an appearance on the cover is an opportunity to look beyond their sex appeal and celebrate their accomplishments, while simultaneously serving as role models for young girls.

Considering that the 35 year-old Wambach is in the twilight of her career, the chance to be featured on SI’s cover represents another milestone in her outstanding career. With 182 career goals, the most of any woman in the history of the sport, the one championship she has yet to win is the World Cup. Should the US emerge victorious in the gold medal game in Vancouver, expect another cover appearance for Wambach.

One element that has not been overlooked by Canada’s soccer fans is the fact that Leroux was born north of the border. The cover displays great bravura as the caption indicates that Leroux will silence Canada’s boos. With the USA’s first two games in Group play taking part in Winnipeg (its province borders the state of Minnesota), the number of American fans in attendance ensures there are no boos. As a side note, the USA’s third game takes place in Edmonton (where Canada played its first two Group games), the northern-most host city in the event, there may be some boos to come.

The key storyline of the issue is one of redemption. In addition to the goal of winning its first World Cup title since 1999, which was a landmark moment for women’s sport in America, motivation is high after the bitterness of a shootout loss to Japan in the 2011 title game. Compounded by the gender discrimination controversy over the use of artificial turf, America’s entry in this year’s World Cup has not been lacking in storylines.

Regardless of the outcome, the impact of all four covers signifies a remarkable victory. Punctuating the relevance of women’s soccer as a point of pride for American sports fans, perhaps it may lead to increased coverage of Women’s Professional Soccer, along with other female sports.

US soccer captain Christie Rampone scores with cover appearance on SI Kids

Looking to be the first US soccer captain since Mia Hamm to lead her team to a Women’s World Cup victory, Christine Rampone has an extra incentive. Of note, a World Cup victory would complement a great personal milestone for Rampone. Celebrating her birthday on June 24, during the World Cup, she shall turn 40.

Appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids (cover date June 2015), Rampone is joined by Alex Morgan, one of the world’s most popular players, and Abby Wambach, a 12-year veteran on the team who shall be counted on for leadership. As a side note, Morgan is featured on a pull-out poster in the magazine.

RamponeSIKids

With the words, “The Avengers” in bright blue, adorning the bottom left of the cover, these real-life superheroes bring high motivation. Four years ago, the US endured a visceral loss in an emotional World Cup final to a Japanese squad looking to raise the spirits of a devastated nation suffering from the effects of an earthquake.

Gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids represents a special milestone for Rampone as she is the mother of two young children. In addition, she was among the members of the US national women’s soccer team selected as Sports Illustrated Sportswomen of the Year for 1999.

Having competed in four World Cups for the US, including the emotional victory in 1999 (which is also the last time that the US claimed the World Cup), she is the appropriate choice to serve as captain of the US contingent heading into the 2015 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

In Rampone’s distinguished career, it will signify a historic achievement in her career as she shall be one of only five women internationally to have played in at least five World Cup events. Making her debut for the US national team a generation ago on February 28, 1997, her first career goal with the national team occurred on May 2, 1997, versus South Korea.

Heading into the 2015 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, avenging that loss is definitely the US team’s mission. Taking into account that the championship game shall be held in Vancouver, it offers a unique element of redemption. During the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Canada defeated the United States in the gold medal games of men’s and women’s ice hockey. Only adding to the sporting rivalry between the two nations, the possibility of Canada and the US in the World Cup title game would likely be the highest rated soccer game in TV history for both countries.

Three distinct athletes grace pages of SI’s 50th Anniversary Swimsuit Issue

As the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014, a trio of athletes graces its pages among the likes of models such as Kate Upton and Chrissy Teigen. While the highly popular issue gained criticism over the years for having nothing to do with sport, the presence of female (and the occasional male) athlete has brought a new element of popularity.

Since Steffi Graf turned heads as one of the first athletes to appear in the issue, it has opened the doors for many other athletes to follow. From Danica Patrick to Maria Sharapova to Jennie Finch, Natalie Coughlin once appeared in the issue adorned in nothing but body paint, the swimsuit issue has brought a venerable who’s who in female sport to a much larger audience.

In this year’s edition, three athletes from three very different sports and distinct backgrounds grace the pages. Former Notre Dame basketball star Skylar Diggins, part of the WNBA’s 3 to See Rookies in 2013 (also featuring Brittany Griner and Elena Delle Donne) revealed a warm, softer side beneath what fans know as a competitive and intense exterior. Hoping to bring the Tulsa Shock back in the playoff picture,

Diggins is highly popular for her fashion selections and red carpet pomp. The 23-year-old celebrated her appearance in the issue by going to social media. In a photo in which she is holding the magazine, the caption states “Surreal”.

A gold medalist at the 2012 London Summer Games, Alex Morgan has established herself as soccer’s girl next door. Having also made an appearance in the 2013 edition of the SI Swimsuit Issue, she is the only athletes in the class of 2014 to have appeared before. Like Diggins, she also shared her enthusiasm on social media, stating that she felt honored to be part of the anniversary edition.

The third athlete to be featured this year was certainly the least shy. Professional surfer Anastasia Ashley, who also dabbles part-time as a model, marks the second consecutive year that a surfer appears in the pages of SI Swimsuit. In 2013, surfer Alanna Blanchard graced the pages.

With a rapidly growing fanbase on Instagram, Ashley, who has published photos via social media in which she mimics Kim Kardashian with one of her infamous butt shots, does not exhibit any shyness in the SI Swimsuit edition. She has also openly talked about the sexuality of female surfers, most notably, in the Huffington Post.

Of note, Ashley is featured in some very risqué shots that are visible on the SI Swimsuit website, featuring photos of all three athletes not seen in the magazine. Among them, Ashley dons some see-through mesh tops, leaving very little to the imagination. As a side note, both Ashley and Morgan expose their bare backs in some photos.

While some sports fans may see the presence of these female athletes as controversial, this is a debate that will last for an eternity. The real topic of debate should be what the selection process is for the athletes that appear.

Perhaps a more unique approach could be utilized. Considering that many athletes have had to disrobe for calendars in order to raise funds for their sport or for charity, it would be refreshing if Sports Illustrated could help their cause. Featuring such athletes in their periodical while making a donation to an athlete’s charity of choice may be a more practical way of celebrating an athlete’s commitment to their respective sport.