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Brandi Chastain talks Capital One Cup, USWNT, WPS

On July 13, the Capital One Cup will be presented to one men’s and one women’s Division I collegiate athletics program that  finishes atop the respective Capital One Cup standings, which are based on NCAA Championship and end of season coach’s poll finishes.  The winning programs will receive the Capital One Cup trophy and $200,000 to fund student-athlete graduate-level scholarships.

Among the Capital One Cup advisors is former U.S. Women’s National Team defender Brandi Chastain, who recently took the time to talk about the competition as well the U.S. Women’s National Team and the future of WPS.  Chastain will be in Germany covering the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.  Here is what she had to say:

You are an advisor for the Capital One Cup.  Can you tell me what got you involved with that?

Brandi Chastain: Well, they recognize that I have Division I experience and I have been to multiple final four weekends – or, championship weekends – but basically I think that they know that I am a soccer nut and I am a sports nut and I love collegiate sports.  So, it was the perfect fit for both of us.

And I see that the women’s standings currently feature some of the traditional power schools at the top.

BC: Yes, right now Stanford women is leading and Auburn is leading on the men’s side, but spring sports are in full swing and the championships are coming up, so those leaders could change, which is what is exciting about the Capital One Cup.  Just because you have traditional powers – and we have 13 sports on men’s and women’s sides that will be able to earn points for their university.  So it is a cumulative total, not just for the big sports.  Those big teams aren’t always going to win this trophy.  It’s exciting.

Right, on the men’s side there are some real odd-ball mid-majors like Eastern Washington and Delaware.  Maybe those will pop up on the women’s side?

BC: Yeah, I think that is the beauty of this trophy and the scholarship.  The scholarship that they will be giving out along with the trophy, which is $200,000 (the scholarship), will be announced.  These teams in these sports that most people don’t get a chance to follow or to recognize or just to know the players names, will surely start making an impact on the final points total, which is exciting.

And Notre Dame is currently at No. 3 in the women’s rankings.  I have to imagine a lot of that is due to their women’s soccer team winning the national championship.

BC: Absolutely.  Sports are put into three tiers, but each national championship you win and then top 10 finish adds to the cumulative score.  So, it’s nice to know that men’s tennis and men’s lacrosse as well as women’s rowing and women’s tennis and softball will really impact the final outcome for the championship.

So are you hoping to see Santa Clara in there as a former Bronco?

BC: Absolutely.  I have to route on my Broncos.  I think we fall into the category like you said, we are not a massive football or basketball school, although our men’s (basketball) team did win the CIT this year, which is very exciting.  So, women’s soccer can really earn some big points so I think that is the duty of the Capital One Cup.  I think that is what Capital One recognizes is that there are collegiate athletes at the Division I level around this country that work so, so hard and you might not get a chance to see them on TV but they are going to add points for their university.  And I think it is knowing that, that can also give validity to these sports and these players in a way that they have never had before.

And the scholarships – do you think they will help advance learning in whatever school wins?

BC: Well if you are a parent you know that scholarship would be nice for your child.  I think these student-athletes are motivated because they love their sport; because they love their school; because they love their teammates.  Adding this, the Capital One Cup, to the mix only enhances the opportunity to put themselves and their teammates on the map.  And I think the $200,000 post-graduate scholarship – if that is out there, I think these student athletes recognize the importance of that.  For most of the female student athletes who don’t go on to be professional athletes in our sport, that gives them another opportunity to continue in their academic career, to make great strides using the lessons that they have learned on the athletic field.

And even those that do play professionally will need that eventually will need that career.

BC: Yeah, there is no doubt.  The award itself is a beautiful trophy by the way.  But the scholarship I think is even more spectacular than the trophy, because it is truly life altering.  To be able to continue education, to be able to then take that education and to impact the communities where these student athletes live – I mean, who knows, we could find that the next generation down the road the next president of the United States, she’ll have won the Capital One Cup.  And the post-collegiate scholarship that she won was used to go to law school and then she used that law degree to become the president.  So, that could possibly happen.  And I think that is the importance of recognizing these 26 sports on the men’s and women’s side collectively.

Now, with the Women’s World Cup coming up, how do you view the United States’ chances?

BC: Well I think this World Cup will be the most spectacular World Cup that anybody has seen and I think that for a few reasons.  One, because ESPN will be broadcasting the entire tournament in high definition from Germany, in which the games will be played in the most spectacular soccer stadiums.  Unlike ’99, we played in American football stadiums, which was, for us, awesome.  But these are soccer specific stadiums and the crowds will be soccer knowledgeable and they will be packed to the last seat.  And  I think this time around, though the U.S. is ranked No. 1 and surely is the favorite, Germany, who is the host, I think is just knocking on the door.  Brazil has not won a World Cup but they have come so close, just to name two other teams.  I think this tournament has so many potentially giant beaters in North Korea and maybe Sweden, just to name a few.  And then there are teams who have played in the Cup but never scored a goal, like New Zealand.  And this could be a chance for them to break out of that and really to change the dynamic of soccer in their country.  So there are a lot of great stories that will be shown on ESPN during this World Cup, but I just think the spectacle will be seen in a way that nobody has ever seen it before.

I have heard some people say that this U.S. generation lacks the superstars it had when you, Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and others were on the team.  Is that legitimate?

BC: Well, I think it is unfair to put that on this team.  It is not their fault that ’99 was the biggest Women’s World Cup ever and it became such an event that it – the timing was perfect for our team, for sure.  And what I hope is that this World Cup stands on its own and allows the merit of these players to come through and for them then to have their personalities come through as well.  The players have to do their job by playing the best soccer that they possibly can in a way that is admired and appreciated by the fans.  So, it’s a lot of work.  It goes beyond them as people or just as individual players, but for them as a collective whole it will be important.  So, I really look forward to seeing this World Cup put a spotlight on a lot of players that maybe people haven’t really recognized yet and making them well known.

So are you calling games at the World Cup or will you be in studio?

BC: They have me slated in both ways.  So, I’m going to be on the road.  I’m going to have to come up with a title for what I am doing.  I am going to be on the road like every third day, I think, in Germany.  So it is going to be the ‘Tour de Germany,” I think, for Brandi.

And I just want to ask you briefly about WPS.  Obviously you have played in the league and you have seen the WUSA fold.  I am sure you have heard some of the recent happenings and mayhem.  Do you have any thoughts on how the league can succeed going forward?  It’s that third year hump.

BC: You know, what I know is that it is important and critical for our national team and for the health and wellness of young girls in this country to have a professional league because it allows them to aspire beyond what it is that they have in their immediate future, which is going to college and potentially participating at the Division I level and obviously making a charge for that Capital One Cup.  It gives them also places to use their academic careers as well.  Maybe they don’t go on to be a player, but maybe they become the president of the league or the general manager of a team or the doctor or the lawyer.  So there’s so many more things beyond the playing field that are critical to this league surviving, so I hope that collectively, and without calling out names, the league can get together and find the real reason why it is important for this league to exist beyond the money part because it’s not making money right now.  That can’t be the focus.  It’s about developing the game and the people so that you can have a successful league down the line.  And it has to be done the right way now or it will unfortunately fail.


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