For the second time ever, two female coaches will lead their teams into the Women’s World Cup final.
American Jill Ellis, of the U.S., and Sarina Wiegman, of the Netherlands, will vie against each other alongside their respective teams for the trophy on Sunday.
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“I think it’s a wonderful statement,” Ellis said. “The players do their thing on the pitch and there’s a lot of young women or former players that want to coach. I think to see coaches doing it is really important.”
The first time two female soccer coaches competed against one another was in a 2003 final between Tina Theune-Meyer, of Germany, and Marika Domanski-Lyfors, of Sweden.
The first three editions of the Women’s World Cup were won by male coaches: Anson Dorrance with the U.S. in 1991, Even Pellerud with Norway in 1995 and Dorrance with the U.S. in 1999. But of the four subsequent editions, Norio Sasaki is the only man to have lifted the trophy when Japan triumphed in 2011.
Ellis will seek to become the first person — man or woman — to successfully defend the trophy.
Ellis, who has coached the U.S. national team since 2014, said “there aren’t enough [women] in the game in coaching … especially in the States at every level, whether it’s collegiate, whether it’s our professional league.”
While opportunities are limited, the pool of female coaches for federations to pick from is, too. Of the 954,943 coaches worldwide tracked by FIFA, 93 percent are men.
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Megan Rapinoe, the U.S. women’s soccer team forward who has caught the attention of President Trump, said “we need to have a conversation about providing the foundation for more women coaches to excel to this level.”
“So then you’re getting to the position where you maybe have 10 candidates and it’s sort of equal on both sides,” Rapinoe, who recently said she believes “not many, if any” of her teammates would visit the White House if they win on Sunday, added.
The foundations for the Dutch run to a first Women’s World Cup final began a decade ago when Vera Pauw led them to the semifinals at the 2009 European Championship during their tournament debut. Amid what she felt was a macho culture, Pauw left her job in 2010.
Dutch coach Wiegman believes the culture has changed.
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“I don’t have the struggles she had. Before the European Championship (in 2017) we had a lot of help. Our staff has changed, has improved. We have more facilities and I also think that is part of the development of the team,” she said.
The World Cup final kicks off at 11 a.m. ET and can be watched on local FOX stations, and can also be streamed on FOX Sports Go.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.