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The Ultimate Goal

Jim McMahon/Mapman®

Beginning June 7, soccer fans will pack stadiums across France for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Every four years, 24 of the top teams from around the globe come together to compete in the month-long tournament. With 52 matches in nine different cities, it’s the most-watched women’s sporting event in the world.  

The U.S. national team is the reigning champion. The team beat Japan in the 2015 final—and hopes to lift the championship trophy again this year.

“I’m so excited,” says Crystal Dunn, one of the team’s defenders, who is playing in her first World Cup. “We will fight until the very last whistle blows.”

The U.S. also won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999. Its three championships are the most of any country. But for Dunn, playing for the national team is about more than winning.

“It’s an honor every time I put on the jersey,” she says, “and walk on the field knowing that I am representing this country.”

Get to Know . . . Crystal Dunn

Soccer star Crystal Dunn, 26, is no stranger to winning. In college, she helped the University of North Carolina win the 2012 national championship. And her professional team, the North Carolina Courage, is the reigning champion of the National Women’s Soccer League. Dunn hopes to add another trophy to her collection at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. But the defender on the U.S. Women’s National Team is more than just a soccer champ. She also loves music and singing—and is known as one of the team’s best dancers!

Scholastic News senior editor Jennifer Li Shotz spoke to Dunn just weeks before the World Cup.

 

Scholastic News: The U.S. Women’s Team won the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. How do you feel heading into the competition this summer?

Crystal Dunn: Awesome! I’m so excited. It’s a dream come true. This event only happens every four years, and it’s time to now put all of our preparation into play. It’s not going to be easy. The game changes every year. The game is getting quicker. Teams are getting better. But we know that we can still achieve what we were able to achieve four years ago.

Scholastic News: How does it feel to represent your country?

Crystal Dunn: It feels amazing. It’s an honor every time I put on the jersey and walk on the field knowing that I am representing this country. All those that came before me paved the way for us to play this game and be in the position that we are now. I always feel like I have this sense of responsibility to pass on that torch.

Scholastic News: Like every player, you’ve had tough times in your career. What would you say to that kid who loves soccer but just got benched or is struggling?

Crystal Dunn: It’s always easy to enjoy something when you’re scoring goals, when you’re winning, when you’re always starting and always playing. And I think the moments that we actually want to forget are the moments that are challenging. It may not feel like it at that time, but those challenging moments make you even better than you thought you could ever be. I would tell any child right now who just got benched or didn’t make a team that something great is coming. 

Scholastic News: Tell us about the U.S. Women’s National Team. 

Crystal Dunn: We have this “Never say die” mentality. We will fight until the very last whistle blows. We feel like we can achieve anything. Your efforts, your energy, your positivity, your leadership in every moment that you step foot on the field—that’s what we try to bring to every game. It’s just so much fun. There are some days that we are grumpy because we missed out on [a family] event, or we don’t see our spouses. But ultimately leading into the World Cup, we know all those sacrifices we made are going to be worth it. That’s what’s going to push us to win these games and really take our game to the next level—and hopefully be in the finals and hopefully hoist up the trophy.

Scholastic News: You are one of 28 players who are suing U.S. Soccer over gender discrimination. [The women are paid less than the players on the Men’s National Team and say that the league provides fewer resources to the women’s team.] What are your goals in the fight for gender equality in sports? 

Crystal Dunn: It always starts with someone standing up and wanting change. It’s just shedding light on things that happen to us because of who we are as female athletes. We play the same sport as men, we put in the same effort, we’re sacrificing the same amount of days away from family members, if not more. And I think people need to know that we take ourselves very seriously and that’s how we should be treated. If I show up to work and I’m putting in the same amount of hours, doing the same job as another employee who happens to be a man, why should my paychecks be any less? Why should I feel like I’m not valuable? 

Note: The interview has been edited and condensed.

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