The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is going to be some kind of party. Pundits from around the globe have delivered their predictions about the summer’s big tournament, but why trust them when you can listen to two guys who’ve spent hours and hours learning about it on Wikipedia instead? We’ve left no stone unturned, and thanks to the world’s most reliable and well-sourced encyclopedia—one that’s definitely not edited by a community famous for its non-experts and trolls—we’re certain this information is at least a little accurate. Here are some things you should know:
1. The Women’s World Cup wasn’t always this way
The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is an event that will register prominently on the global summer sporting calendar. While coverage and popular interest still trail the men’s tournament considerably, it’s hard to deny that this is a giant worldwide event in its own right.
It wasn’t always this way, however. The inaugural tournament, held in 1991 in a single province in China, wasn’t even called the World Cup. Instead, it was named ‘The 1st FIFA Women’s World Championship For The M&Ms Cup.’ FIFA, high on respect for delightful little chocolates, but less so for female athletics, limited games to 80 minutes and reportedly gave serious consideration to using a youth-sized soccer ball. How charming. To put it plainly, the tournament was not well organized, progressive, or widely known—even in the United States, which won the title.
Fast forward 24 years, and everything has changed. The seventh edition of the tournament will take place in large stadia across the Great White North and is poised to make a bigger splash than ever, thanks to high-level, diversified corporate investment and dedicated media coverage in most of the 24 competing nations. Players like the United States’ Abby Wambach, Japan’s Homare Sawa, Brazil’s Marta, and France’s Louisa Nécib aren’t just totemic figures in the sport, but legitimately iconic in their own athletic cultures. Women’s soccer is quickly becoming mainstream throughout the world, and now has a championship that is financed, marketed, organized and covered accordingly.
2. The mascot is lame
For all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into hosting a major competitions, tournament organizers are nevertheless always straddling a fine line between failure and success. With so many moving parts, one small oversight could have disastrous effects, growing into the sort of large-scale misunderstanding that warrants FBI and DOJ investigations. While the Canadian Women’s World Cup has navigated controversy fairly well, there’s one weakness sure to keep tournament organizers awake at night: the mascot.
Meet Shuéme the Great White Owl, a low-rent mascot whose official biography describes her as an “elegant owl-about-town,” a standard description for most members of the genus Bubo. While the costume is itself mediocre—so substandard that you’d be unlikely to find it during a furry convention—the real problem lies in the grandstanding underlining Shuéme’s development.
Just read this excerpt from her bio:
“With colours that symbolise peace and fair play, and with stylish hair that exudes self-confidence and pride, Shuéme’s flowing contours suggest grace under pressure, while her wings and tail ensure precise control and agility.”
More to the point, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent to host the World Cup, and you only give your mascot a bland $15 beefy-tee? Two wings down on this one.
3. Controversy abounds!
No international tournament is complete without its fair share of controversy, and the 2015 Women’s World Cup is no different. You’ve probably heard of #TurfGate, a dispute that developed after a group of over 50 players began protesting the use of artificial turf during the tournament, alleging that it was an example of gender discrimination. This is a contention that seems pretty reasonable given regular assertions from all corners of the media about FIFA’s disdain for women’s soccer and Sepp Blatter’s overt dog-in-heat sexism.
Nevertheless, the fault really fell to both groups, with players neglecting the fact that artificial turf was mentioned during the bidding process, missing the cut-off date for their legal action, overlooking that turf has been used in FIFA-sanctioned tournaments in the past, and completely ignoring the reality that grass doesn’t grow in Canada. (Not to mention the suspicious fact that the leader of the allegations, U.S. legend Abby Wambach, would go on to partner with a lawn care company just months before the tournament.)
Beyond grass issues, most have overlooked the fact that North Korea, Women’s World Cup quarterfinalists in 2007, were banned from the tournament after testing positive for deer gland doping in 2011. Deer gland doping is the process by which a person picks up a baby deer and rubs it against their face in the hopes of improving their performance. That’s not true, but it sure sounds adorable.
4. America’s Team
The United States women’s national team goes into Canada as the Vegas favorite, boasting a dazzling array of athletic talent and big-time personalities. They don’t just kill it on the pitch, though; they also grind hard off of it with a strong and diversified endorsement game. Star forward Alex Morgan holds down a fleet of top-tier sponsorship deals with Nike, Panasonic, Coca Cola, Chapstick, and Bridgestone, while goalkeeper Hope Solo has inked deals with video game developers Ubisoft and EA, sports drink behemoth Gatorade, and BlackBerry, a company that apparently still makes phones.
It’s not just anonymous corporate giants with this group, though. Some of the most intriguing sponsorship deals on the team are with companies that represent the players’ local roots. Longtime captain and New Jersey native Christie Rampone was selected as the first-ever spokesperson of popular Garden State sandwich chain Jersey Mike’s in 2012—the first in the company’s 59-year history. Similarly, legendary forward Abby Wambach, who grew up on a farm in Rochester, lends her name and image to the New York Apple Association, a nonprofit trade group representing the state’s commercial apple growers:
Staying on the topic of food, Wambach also holds one of Chipotle’s rare gold cards—entitling her to one free burrito daily for the rest of her life—while teammate Lauren Holiday represents yogurt gods Chobani.
All in all, it’s a team full of female athletes in serious demand—and that’s great to see. Particularly impressive, though, is the range of charitable efforts that the players contribute to, from Wambach’s work with the Epilepsy Foundation, to Solo’s involvement with the Boys and Girls Club, to Carli Lloyd’s philanthropic endeavors with Habitat for Humanity.
5. Mexico, or as we like to call them: Team California
Mexico comes into the tournament a young and talented side hoping to finally escape group stage for the first time. With only two players in the squad over the age of 28, it’s a national team looking at a bright future—and mostly finding that future north of the border. Twelve of the 23 players in El Tri’s squad grew up in the United States, including nine Californians. To put the weight of that stat in perspective, the United States only has six players who call the Golden State home. As much as the USA-Mexico rivalry means, California residents get the green light to throw their support behind two teams this summer and enjoy incredible representation on both sides of the border.
6. Records will fall
A wide variety of international soccer records are set to be broken in Canada. Both Japan’s Homare Sawa and Brazil’s Formiga should become the first players—men or women—to appear in six World Cups, while Costa Rica’s 15-year-old sensation Gloriana Villalobos would become the youngest to play in tournament history if she takes the field for Las Ticas.
The mark for oldest Women’s World Cup participant will almost certainly be broken as well. American defender Christie Rampone, who turns 40 during the tournament, will set the record if she steps on the pitch at all, but, in the unlikely event she doesn’t play, New Zealand goalkeeper Rebecca Rolls could take the honor. (Fun fact: Rolls took a decade-long hiatus from football to become a wicketkeeper for New Zealand’s national cricket team.)
The one individual prize on everyone’s minds, though, is the all-time Women’s World Cup goalscoring record. Marta currently co-owns the all-time Golden Boot with 14 career tallies, but Abby Wambach is only one goal behind. By the time this tournament’s story has been written, one of them should be in sole possession of the award, while the other spends the rest of their days in the wilderness muttering about past glories.
7. Zlatan’s going to the World Cup! … Kinda!
Unlike last summer’s World Cup, this one will feature an impressive goalscorer of Balkan descent who plays for both Paris Saint-Germain and Sweden. Sound familiar? Well, it’s actually Kosovare Asllani, but with a similar background and style of play to Zlatan Ibrahimović, she is now known to many as “La Belle Zlatan.”
For all the comparisons, it remains to be seen whether Asllani can live up to Zlatan’s standard. Will she injure a few teammates in training-ground brawls? Does she plan to insult coaches in the media? Does she speak in the third-person?
It’s time to work on your game, Asllani—and for all of you to get those #DareToZlatan tweets queued up.
8. A Few Good Names
There are some great names going to Canada, and by that we actually do just mean some cool sounding names. Here are our seven favorites:
Ana-Maria Crnogorčević, F, Switzerland: This name lulls you into a wonderfully false sense of security. You see Ana and think you have it easy. It’s not even spelled with two n’s! Now, we’re onto Maria. Piece of cake, right? But, then, the name slams you with the phonetic hammerblow of Crnogorčević. We don’t know how it’s pronounced, and we’re pretty sure she doesn’t either, but we’ve got respect for that. Nobody tells this name what it can and can’t be.
Angela Christ, G, Netherlands: Her name is Christ and she saves. You do the math.
Esther Sunday, F, Nigeria: Continuing with the tried and true Christianity reference above, HER NAME SOUNDS LIKE EASTER SUNDAY! That’s so cool.
Eugénie Le Sommer, F, France: This name sounds like the designer of expensive articles of clothing or scents that we can’t afford but really, really want to have. Have you ever tasted a Le Sommer 1965? It’s the greatest Cabernet Sauvignon you’ll never have.
Kaylyn Kyle, M, Canada: This name is a commentator’s dream. It’s got sweet alliteration, a ton of y’s, a sweet two-one syllable punch that rolls off the tongue and it holds the title of “Most Likely to Belong to a Disney Channel Series Protagonist” at this year’s tournament. Strong work.
Melissa Bjånesøy, F, Norway: Journalists covering the tournament and using PCs will be absolutely furious if Melissa starts scoring goals. Not easy to find those characters on a Dell.
Daniëlle van de Donk, M, Netherlands: This wins “Most Dutch Name” in the field, narrowly beating out Anouk Hoogendijk, Sari van Veenendaal, and Merel van Dongen.
9. Nicknames on nicknames
This iteration of the tournament also comes chock full of solid team nicknames:
Colombia: Las chicas superpoderosas. According to Wikipedia, this literally translates to ‘The Powerpuff Girls.’ It doesn’t, but let’s go ahead and agree to ignore facts here.
China: The Steel or The Forceful Roses. The Steel is a strong nickname, but The Forceful Roses is the real winner here. We’re pretty sure we grew up listening to Forceful Roses songs on alternative radio stations sandwiched between Green Day and Blur.
New Zealand: The Football Ferns. It’s probably safe to assume that New Zealand’s team has one player who brings up Between Two Ferns whenever possible. Sitting on the team bus? “Hey guys, you could say I’m BETWEEN TWO FERNS!” In the locker room waiting to see which player gets added to the final roster? “A RACE BETWEEN TWO FERNS.” The possibilities are endless(ly annoying).
Thailand: The War Elephants. This doesn’t need an explanation. Fingers crossed their mascot is a real-life elephant with a cannon strapped to its back.
Nigeria: The Super Falcons. We’re almost positive this team was a boss in the acclaimed Nintendo 64 aviation sim‘Star Fox, but we’ll need to go back and do some research. DO A BARREL ROLL.
If you were on the fence about watching the Women’s World Cup before reading this, you’re welcome. We look forward to your uninformed analysis and strong opinions on Twitter.