The US women's soccer team is making headlines at the World Cup in France. When it comes to their presence not only on the football pitch but also in society, they are in a class of their own.
Two orange-colored hard tennis courts and a wooden table with numerous microphones: For Christen Press of the United States women's soccer team, this must have seemed like past meeting present.
The US forward, who on Monday fielded questions from journalists ahead of Tuesday's World Cup semifinal against England in Lyon, comes from a family of athletes. Her father, Cody, was also a footballer, while her mother, Stacy, was a tennis player. She said in an interview with US sports magazine Sports Illustrated in 2018 that her family "placed extraordinary value on winning."
"As a younger person, I was very results oriented. That translated into attaching results to my identity and me thinking: 'If you win, you are a winner and if you lose, you are a loser,'" Press said in a video published by the US national team before the World Cup. "That was really unhealthy for me."
Arrogance? Or confidence?
Success is important not only for Press but also the whole US team. Three World Cup titles, four Olympic gold medals, world No. 1 ranking: The expectations, not only of the public but also of the players themselves, are extremely high. So too is the team's self-confidence.
"We have the best team in the world and the second-best team in the world," US defender Ali Krieger said after her team's 3-0 win over Chile in the group stage — a game in which the US fielded a B-team.
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This remark was not received well, with many worldwide describing the US as arrogant. When asked about this by DW on Monday, Press presented a different viewpoint.
"I don't think our team is arrogant at all. Our team is confident," Press said on Monday.
Winning the fight for recognition
"The way that respect [our opponents] is by preparing for each game as if the opponent we are going to play is the best in the world," Press continued.
With this approach, the US, unlike Germany, have been consistently successful.
And through their success, the team have achieved something other than titles and trophies over the past decade that female footballers in other countries have (thus far) been denied: recognition. The American women use this esteem to take a pioneering role not just on the field but also off it.
"The girls in the US have such a platform. One of their players talked about how Alex Morgan is a celebrity there," English defender Lucy Bronze, one of the best female footballers in the world, told a press conference on Monday. "I think they try to drive as many issues as possible. They have huge influences on their country."
For equal recognition and against discrimination
Morgan, Press, Megan Rapinoe and other members of the US team are publicly defending themselves against discrimination and are not afraid to take on US President Donald Trump. They fight for equality, even if they have to sue their own soccer federation for it. Their success as footballers on the pitch has made them more self-confident as people — and that makes the team even stronger.
Press has also profited personally from societal appreciation in her own country. She now hopes to pass on her experience from 121 national team appearances to the next generation.
"Confidence is beautiful," Press said. "It's part of the US women's national team legacy. We hope that our performances are spreading to other people in the world and that the next generation sees that [self-confidence], feels that and carries it on."