Yes, the U.S. “shellacked” Thailand in their opening game 13-0. But it was far from unsportsmanlike. Being a sportsman is about respecting the rules of the game and your opponent.

First, in regards to respecting the game: The FIFA Women’s World Cup is structured as a round robin tournament, and relies on scoring differential to determine who finishes at the top of each group. Therefore, if another team in Group F (i.e. Sweden) had finished group play with the same record as the U.S., but had beaten Thailand 14-0, the Swedes would have won the group by a +1 goal differential and bumped the U.S. to second place in the group, theoretically matching them against a tougher team in the Round of 16. The U.S. was absolutely right and justified in scoring as many goals as possible against Thailand, given how the tournament is set up, to ensure their best path advancing to the next round.

Second, in regards to respecting the opponent: Having played soccer at a high level (alongside the likes of Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Kelley O’Hara, to name a few), I can speak firsthand as to how humiliating it is to have an opponent play anything but their best against you. It is downright disrespectful to “let up” on an opponent, especially on the sport’s biggest stage. We are not talking about Little League here, Mr. Lepore, this is the World Cup. These players do not want mercy. And as for “sending in the subs”: If you’ve never played on a competitive soccer team, you might not know the importance of building confidence and chemistry among your starting 11 in the opening match of soccer’s biggest tournament. Every minute they stay on the field together is vital.

I do agree with your statement that the goal celebrations were juvenile, particularly after the sixth or seventh goal, especially for those veteran players who have scored in a World Cup before. However, for some players (Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh), this is their first rodeo and they have been dreaming about scoring in the World Cup since they saw Brandi Chastain rip her jersey off in ’99.

Mr. Lepore, I implore you to keep watching women’s soccer, especially if you have daughters, granddaughters, nieces etc. Learn the nuances, pay attention to what’s going on outside the lines. Supporting women’s soccer is much bigger than the game.

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