U.S. women clinch World Cup appearance

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Amidst the gender discrimination controversy surrounding the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, the U.S. women's team secured itself a spot in the tournament.

The ladies beat Mexico 3-0 on Oct. 24 during the semifinal round of the CONCACAF championship. The win itself is impressive as it is; a shut out of this caliber isn't something one sees all the time. But what makes this win really special is that it brings with it a spot in next year's World Cup.

Already 21 teams have qualified for the tournament, among them are Australia, Japan, Cameroon, and Nigeria. There are still three more spots available for other countries to clinch.

After beating Mexico, the Americans advanced through to the final round against Costa Rica in the CONCACAF championship. The team has built a winning record this season -- out of 18 matches played, it's won 13 of them with two losses and three draws.

Now that the U.S. has qualified for the World Cup, what does it mean for the team? For starters, it's a chance to return to glory. In 1999, the USWNT were the World Cup Champions, but thereafter they came in third place for the next two cups before finishing as runner up in 2011.

It's been 15 years since the ladies have seen the top prize. It's been a long, painful process going from the top and then falling down and sinking into the third-place spot. But what is different about this year's team isn't its strength or its tactics, but its experience.

Of the 20 women on the roster, most of them have seen World Cup action before. In fact, some of them have been on the team since the early 2000's, giving them a good amount of long-term experience and setting this year's team apart from the rest. Knowing that there's over 50 percent of this team that's been to a World Cup and seen the fast-paced action means something.

Despite all this experience, this team is still actually relatively young and flexible. They've got great players in their arsenal and can win the most important matches. The women knew what was at stake in the Mexico match and made it happen by blanking another strong team.

Qualifying for the World Cup means a great deal. In spite of a gender discrimination battle against the FIFA board, the women qualifying for the ultimate tournament is an accomplishment. For the 24 teams that will compete, they are representing their countries in the highest form. For most countries, not including the United States, soccer is the top sport and it is an esteemed honor to participate in the event.

Although the United States got 'soccer fever' over the summer due to the men's World Cup, there won't be as much fanfare and fury over this event. It will, however, demonstrate that both American teams are good at soccer and bring awareness to the sport.

With the potential for excellence out of the American team, it now comes down to winning the CONCACAF tournament, finishing out the rest of the season, then practicing for and competing in the World Cup. For the five teams yet to be named for the tournament, there's a bit more to be done, but for America, it's all about training.

There is less than a year left before the first kick off in Canada and it's still too early to tell what could happen. The United States' qualification is what matters right now, not what will happen. The talent and experience as well as the ability to win is what this year's team needs to succeed in June and July 2015. The ladies are on the right track to succeed as long as they can keep up the momentum.

Caroline Gazzara is a junior at the University of Alabama majoring in Sports Journalism. Her passions are Alabama athletics and soccer. Follow her on Twitter: @CarolineGazzara
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