Hope Solo says female players should be allowed to play for men's teams and believes soccer will go on to become the most popular sport in the United States.The Seattle Sounders women's team goalkeeper, who has won over 100 caps for the United States women's team and claimed an Olympic gold medal in 2008, spoke exclusively to Goal.com at the Global Sports Forum in Barcelona and admitted she considered trying out for a men's side in 2003, when the Women's United Soccer Association suspended operations.
"I thought about it [playing in a men's league] when our league folded," Solo told Goal.com. "I thought about playing for a lower-division men's club team in St. Louis. And I do believe I would have been able to take care of myself and handle my own if it was a lower division."
Former Serie A side Perugia attempted to sign German international Birgit Prinz and Sweden striker Hanna Ljungberg in 2003, while Brazilian forward Marta has continually claimed she could cut it in a men's league.
Meanwhile, Mexican club Celaya actually announced it had signed El Tri's Maribel Dominguez in 2004, but FIFA stepped in to veto the move, and Solo says it was wrong.
"It's unfortunate that it wouldn't be allowed by FIFA because I think as women, we need a place to play and there's not always a lot of opportunities to become the best in the world, and if you look at the players who want to do it, they want to be the best in the world; the Martas, Maribel Dominguez, the Ljungbergs," Solo said.
"I think it should be allowed if it's fair and if they deserve to be on the team. Not out of charity."
|"It's unfortunate that it wouldn't be allowed by FIFA because I think as women, we need a place to play and there's not always a lot of opportunities."
- Solo on the possibility of women playing in men's teams
Now approaching the final years of a highly successful career, Solo is keen to claim gold in this summer's Olympic Games in London, but says winning the World Cup remains her ultimate goal after missing out on penalties to Japan in the 2011 final.
"That [the Olympics] is what we're gearing up to," she explained. "We're hoping for a repeat gold in London, but we all know it's not easy. We had huge success in the 2011 World Cup, but we didn't win the World Cup so my ultimate goal is to have a repeat in London but also to get my World Cup that I want so dearly.
"I'm hoping I'll be around for another four years."
Women's soccer is already popular in the United States and, in time, Solo also sees the sport becoming No. 1 across the board in her homeland.
"We haven't embraced the game of soccer [as much as other countries] but on the women's side we fill the stadiums," she added. "We outsell many of the MLS teams in America when the women play. It's very different but it's not a very intelligent fanbase because we don't have the rich history and we don't have the tradition.
"[But] this study came out on ESPN that soccer is the second-most popular sport in America between the ages of 18 and 26 or 28. And that's with the youth, so over time it's going to be the No. 1 sport. It is growing and hopefully in my lifetime [we will see it]."