As women’s soccer continues to grow and establish its place in the sporting world, it’s undeniable that the women’s soccer community continues to grow right alongside it. Evidence of this growth was apparent at the first WoSoCo (Women’s Soccer Conference), held on February 20 at the Houston Museum of Printing History. WoSoCo, created and organized by KeeperNotes’ Jen Cooper, provided an opportunity for the unique blend of people who make up the women’s soccer community — those who have followed the game for years to newbies who are more than eager to gain knowledge — to mix and mingle as well as attend three sessions on the women‘s game.
More than a month after the NSCAA Convention in Baltimore, WoSoCo provided a much more focused environment for fans of the National Women‘s Soccer League (NWSL) and U.S. Women’s National Team. Though there’s been a growth in the number of women’s soccer panels offered at the NSCAA Convention, as well as the marked improvement in the presentation of the NWSL draft from the closed-door affair in 2013 to an appropriately live-streamed spectacle in 2016, women’s soccer is still very much working on making its own mark at the NSCAA Conference.
With a day off between the semifinals and final of the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Cooper saw an opportunity to bring together women’s soccer fans for an event that blended discussion and social interaction. Over the course of three hours, attendees didn’t just sit through lectures but actively discussed, cracked jokes at, and celebrated the women’s game.
Cooper’s presentation took fans through the history of the USWNT — from “hand-me-downs to heroes.” Fellow KeeperNotes’ editor Hal Kaiser helped everyone navigate the tangled jungle that are NWSL’s roster rules. The day ended with a panel that included the Houston Dash’s Kealia Ohai and Haley Carter, and former Mexican Women’s National team captain Mónica González.
The idea for WoSoCo came from the Let’s Develop Women’s Football symposium, which occurred between the semifinals and final of the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, the region’s World Cup qualifying tournament. CONCACAF didn’t host an event this time around, and Cooper felt an opportunity was being missed to grow the game. This lost opportunity further reinforces what seems to be a consistent problem in the development of women’s soccer — inaction.
“There’s a lot of talk about supporting the women’s game; it‘s just that, a lot of talk,” Cooper said.
Despite the inaction often seen on some levels, Cooper pointed to the largely overlooked women’s soccer market and the “huge, untapped demand for WoSo-related events, merchandise, and apparel.”
The success of WoSoCo certainly supports that claim.
“The fact that WoSo fans were willing to pay up to $80 for a three-hour event says a lot,” Cooper said. “Especially when you consider that many of the attendees had already spent money to travel to Houston for the CONCACAF semifinals and final.”
Just as there is clearly a bright future for women’s soccer, there is also a future for WoSoCo. Cooper plans to continue hosting the event, and hopes to coordinate it with the date and city of upcoming NWSL finals.
For Cooper, it’s about helping fans learn “how they can really grow the game and not just follow it.”