May 24, 2024

3 moms are on the U.S. roster at the Women’s World Cup and 5 were at training — a record

In a hard-fought game, Team USA secured a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands Wednesday night at the Women’s World Cup. Off the field, players on the U.S Women’s National Team are making their mark, with three athletes proudly holding the title of mom. That ties the 2015 record for the most moms on a U.S. roster at the World Cup — and follows the team’s training camp that saw five moms attend, the highest number ever.

Among the group are two-time World Cup champion Alex Morgan, mom to 3-year-old daughter Charlie; defender Crystal Dunn, mother to Marcel Jean; and midfielder Julie Ertz, who became a mom to son Madden last August. 

Ertz called the “journey” of motherhood beautiful. 

“It’s tough, it’s great, it’s overwhelming … It’s all that stuff!” she said. 

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Julie Ertz, who became a mom to son Madden last August. 

Together, the athletes are making history by being moms while playing at the highest level of soccer. 

But for years, the fight for proper support and resources for female athletes, especially moms, was an uphill battle for U.S. soccer players. Morgan has been a vocal advocate not just for her team but also for players in other countries. She fought for private hotel rooms for moms and accommodations for nannies while on the road. 

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Veteran star Alex Morgan, one of two captains of this year’s World Cup team, is a first-time mom.

A turning point came with a collective bargaining agreement last year between the team and the U.S. Soccer Federation, which included paid maternity leave. The agreement solidified the ability of moms to come back and play on the team without compromising their family responsibilities, said Meg Linehan, a senior writer at The Athletic. Linehan said that agreement paved the way for players to able to take care of themselves and their families while continuing to be professional athletes. 

Ertz credits those who came before her as she prepares to celebrate her son’s first birthday. 

In 2009, after having twins, former player Kate Markgraf was told her contract would not be renewed. Instead of suing, she helped devise what is now known as the “Markgraf Rule,” which maintains players’ contracts post-delivery and grants them at least two training camps after returning from maternity leave to prove their athletic ability. 

Markgraf now serves as the team’s general manager. 

Linehan said returning to the field after giving birth poses more than physical challenges. 

“There is a mental challenge … and knowing that your body has physically changed… that you have to make sure that you’re physically able to do the same things, and so, every player is different,” she said.

Ertz said she is grateful for those who helped make her career as a mom possible. 

“It’s like something you can never pay back, for what they’ve done to pave the way. So I’m in a situation of a lot of gratitude and excitement to just be out there,” Ertz said. 

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