Fox studio analyst Alexi Lalas had an interesting take on the USWNT loss and poor performance at the 2023 FIFA women's World Cup. Photo Credit: Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 6, 2023; Melbourne, AUS; United States forward Megan Rapinoe (15) and midfielder Lindsey Horan (10) console forward Sophia Smith (11) after losing to Sweden in the penalty kick shootout during a Round of 16 match in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

There will be no three-peat for the United States at the Women’s World Cup. And Alexi Lalas, the lead studio analyst for Fox at the event, explained why he feels a lot of Americans aren’t going to be too bothered by it.

After the American team lost its Round of 16 match to Sweden in penalty kicks, Lalas tweeted, “Hello, Sunshine. Morning from Sydney. I see the #USWNT Danse Macabre is in full swing.”

Someone replied to Lalas that it’s “Weird watching Americans celebrate an American loss.”

Lalas’ response to that was certainly notable.

“Don’t kill the messenger. This #USWNT is polarizing. Politics, causes, stances, & behavior have made this team unlikeable to a portion of America. This team has built its brand and has derived its power from being the best/winning. If that goes away they risk becoming irrelevant.”

So, is Lalas right or wrong? In a sense, both.

While it’s unlikely that either will be realized, there are two extreme scenarios to look at here.

Scenario 1: The pending retirement of Megan Rapinoe brings the days of the USWNT being outspoken politically to an abrupt end. Team success, however, does not follow. And for the next several World Cup cycles, the women’s team is like the men’s team, it usually qualifies for the World Cup but rarely makes noise.

In that scenario, the team’s following would shrink.

Scenario 2: The team becomes even more political. And as far as on-field results go, 2023’s World Cup performance ends up being to the USWNT what the 2004 Summer Olympic performance was to the U.S. men’s basketball team. Disappointing, for sure, but nothing more than a bump in the road.

In that scenario, the team’s following would at worst, stay steady.

Lalas isn’t wrong to say that the team’s political stances have turned them off to a portion of American viewers. But like anything political, the opposite is true, as well. If there are people who turn the team off because of the politics, there will also be people more inclined to watch.

Where he was completely correct was in the notion that “This team has built its brand and has derived its power from being the best/winning. If that goes away they risk becoming irrelevant.” But linking that to politics is a reach.

If the team wins, the following will stay strong. If it loses, it won’t. That’s accurate for this USWNT, as well as every other team in the history of sports.

[Alexi Lalas]

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