After FIFA scandal, the revenge of the Women’s World Cup?

Editor’s Note: Amy Bass, a professor of history at the College of New Rochelle, has written widely on the cultural history of sports, including the book “Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete.” She is a veteran of eight Olympics as the supervisor of NBC’s Olympic Research Room, for which she won an Emmy in 2012. Follow her on Twitter @bassab1. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Story highlights

Amy Bass: Women's World Cup could be a chance for FIFA to deflect attention away from its scandal and onto the field

U.S. squad comes into games as reigning Olympic champions

Will chance for international glory be enough to get people to watch the women?

CNN  — 

For the past few weeks, soccer has held an unusually prominent place in U.S. headlines, although for scandal rather than action on the pitch. All the talk about bribes and politics and the squalid doings of world soccer’s ruling body, FIFA, obscured a happier soccer story: Over the weekend in Canada, the elite women of the world took to the field to start the largest and longest Women’s World Cup ever held – 52 matches among 24 teams.

And the American women are, as always, a top contender to take it all.

Amy Bass

The relative lack of attention paid to the Women’s World Cup is no surprise. While it will take some time to see if the resignation of FIFA President Sepp Blatter has any effect on the organization’s alleged shenanigans, one thing is sure: His downfall is nothing but good for the women’s game. He has never been what one would call supportive.

The popularity of women’s soccer has grown under his tenure, but not for reasons he ever appeared to understand. “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball,” he famously said in 2004. “They could, for example, have tighter shorts.”

American superstar Alex Morgan says Blatter did not know who she was at the FIFA Player of the Year awards in 2013, where she was being honored as one of the top three in the world. Teammate Abby Wambach led a gender discrimination suit against FIFA over the issue of artificial turf, something Blatter and his cronies basically ignored until the women dropped the suit.

Fans of the women’s game are hoping that the tournament itself will become the focus in the coming weeks. But the lead-up to the Women’s World Cup has always paled in comparison to the frenzy that surrounds the men, a sign of women