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  • Writer's pictureMario Nicolais

Denver is overdue for a women’s professional soccer club

The plan floated by For Denver FC to bring a topflight women’s soccer team to Colorado is the most important sports news in the state this year. Yes, even more important than the Nuggets bringing home another trophy to Titletown, USA.

Professional sports have long been dominated by men, and no city has embodied the disparity more than Denver. Tens of thousands of fans watch terrible baseball at Coors Field on any given summer night. The whole town was swept up in championship runs by the Avalanche and Nuggets in back-to-back years. Broncomania has the most devout Sunday worshipers of any major religion in the state.

Even the Colorado Rapids, who accidented into an MLS Cup in 2010, draw a decent crowd to watch one of the consistently worst teams in a league that would be considered second or third division in any big five European country.

But not a single professional team of women has called this sports-crazed state home. My fellow Green Mountain High School alum and the Rapids analyst for Apple TV, Jordan Angeli, hopes to smash that glass ceiling. 

After playing her way into the National Women’s Soccer League, her career was cut short by three ACL tears (beating my two!). But her passion never waned. Approached by interested investors, she has charged forward with a cause if not yet a fully formed plan. Angeli and her partners understand you have to shoot at goal if you want to score, tiki taka build up alone will not cut it.

Maybe with enough press they could persuade Colorado sporting legends to join in? How about Mikaela Shiffrin, the greatest individual athlete our state has ever produced? What about Lindsay Horan, the Golden High School product who will captain the U.S. Women’s National Team into the World Cup? Even incoming Denver Mayor Mike Johnston has a history playing collegiate soccer.

When For Denver FC officially kicks off on July 21 at 6 p.m., much of the world will be watching Horan. The party will coincide with the USWNT taking on Vietnam in their first match.

For those that have not watched much women’s soccer, it is a must-watch event.

While I rooted Green Mountain’s girls’ team on to our first state title my senior year of high school, it wasn’t until almost a decade and a half later that I fell in love with their game watching a World Cup. In 2011 I tuned in for every match from a booth in the British Bulldog. I was rapt as Megan Rapinoe’s last-gasp cross found Abby Wambach in the box to equalize against Brazil. That was it for me.

Since then, I have been more interested in the USWNT than their male counterparts. Beyond the significant gulf in success (four time winners versus a team that has never made it past the quarter-finals), they embody off-field resolve and determination. From Rapinoe standing up to a misogynistic president to teammates bringing a lawsuit for equal pay, they captivated me.

They demanded equity from a world that wanted to brush them aside.

That is what makes For Denver FC so important. Women’s sport cannot be brushed aside any longer in Denver. It should be fostered and nurtured and embraced. It should be held up as much for its entertainment value as for the role-models it provides young girls.

The end form is still up in the air. The Rapids would be wise to partner quickly, potentially as a full Rapids FC. This is the model used in other countries. For example, FC Barcelona is not just the former home of Johan Cruyff and Lionel Messi, but a women’s team so dominant they not only won the Champions League (after trailing by two goals!) but finished with a triple-digit goal difference in their domestic league (118 goals for, 10 goals against in 30 matches) — a feat unmatched by a men’s club. They will send 18 players to the World Cup.

My club, Chelsea, is next on the list with 15 players. And many of us in the Rocky Mountain Blues supporters group know all their names. We get up at 5 a.m., pack into the bar, and cheer them on just as loudly as we do for the men. We have songs and chants and jerseys with their names on the back. My wife got a Sam Kerr jersey for her birthday this year.

If not that path, then maybe teaming up with some basketball supporters to create a Denver SC (sporting club). It might be something to see a WNBA team and a professional soccer club sharing branding, overhead and administration.

Even if they go it alone and create a team from scratch, it would be a marked step forward for Denver. Or, a marked step forward For Denver FC.

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