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Women's World Cup

At the World Cup, very little breaks through the USWNT bubble

9:00 PM WAT 22/06/2019
Alex Morgan Rose Lavelle USWNT 2019
Many members of the team are attempting to ignore their press coverage, and some are staying off social media entirely in France

Follow the U.S. women’s national team for any significant period of time at this World Cup, and there’s bound to be a word that will surface soon enough.

“Bubble.”

For many members of the USWNT, the only way to deal with the increased focus and scrutiny that comes with playing on the world’s biggest stage is to block it all out entirely.

There are a myriad of talking points that accompany this team outside of the pitch.

From their continuing fight over equal pay to the controversy over their enthusiastic celebrations in their 13-0 win over Thailand, so much is written and talked about the USWNT that has nothing to do with tactics, formations and line-up choices.

Ask many players and coach Jill Ellis about these topics, though, and you may get an answer that sounds like Ellis’s recent response to a question about a non-soccer query.

“When you’re in your bubble, it’s not something that permeates.”

Of the 23 players on the USWNT roster, 11 are making their first appearance at a World Cup. Staying entirely present has been extra imperative for the rookies, who are experiencing the increased scrutiny of a World Cup for the first time.

Some have even taken more drastic measures.

“I’ve actually been deleting social media every camp since about last year,” midfielder Rose Lavelle said.

“I knew it was something that if I didn’t start slowly, like trying to wean off it, it could be something that maybe negatively affected me during this tournament.”

Lavelle’s fellow World Cup newbie Mallory Pugh, the team’s second-youngest player, has done the same.

“I’m not on social media [at the World Cup],” Pugh said. “I’m learning this process so it’s testing what works best for me and for right now, it is to stay off social media and just be solely in this environment.”

Of course, not every player is doing the same as Lavelle and Pugh. And some controversies will inevitably pierce the bubble, no matter how hard the U.S. tries to block it all out.

The USWNT couldn’t help but be aware of the outcry over their celebrations against Thailand, and they crafted a winking response with their golf-clap celebration in the following game against Chile.

As Alex Morgan said knowingly after the game: “The whole team is having fun with this.”

Veterans like Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and others have been active on social media during the tournament, or at least one of their handlers has. Because as much as players want to remain in their bubble, they know there is still value in connecting with the outside world.

“A lot of us have just tried to spend less time on social media or looking at media in general, but I think at times there are so many positive things,” midfielder Sam Mewis said.

“You want to interact with people,” she continued. “I get a lot of messages from friends and people like that, so parts of it are really positive.”

There may be positives from social media, but several players have decided that they aren’t worth the effort while they are in France. Connecting with the outside world can certainly be gratifying but for one month at least, winning a World Cup is priority number one.

“Whatever is outside our bubble, whatever situation it is, these players are locked on,” Ellis said.

“The trappings of everything else is probably more for everybody externally to deal with, but right now the focus has to be what we’re doing inside our bubble.”