Smaller goals and fields at the Women's World Cup? No thanks, USWNT players say

DEAUVILLE, France — In the wake of the United States’ record 13-0 win over Thailand in their opening match at this FIFA Women’s World Cup, an opinion piece appeared in the Times of London arguing that the goals and fields used in the women’s game should be smaller than in the men’s to account for the physical differences between the sexes.

At first glance, the story looked like some demeaning retrograde argument penned by a crusty old man from previous era. In fact, it was written by none other than Emma Hayes, the universally respected manager of Chelsea FC’s women’s team.

“There is one obvious reason why women play on the size of pitches and goals that we see now: That is what we were given,” Hayes wrote, noting that the average height of adult females in the United Kingdom is six inches shorter than their male counterparts. “Maybe no one ever thought to question whether it makes sense.”

Hayes went on to point out that women’s basketball players use a smaller ball, and that the hurdles for men in the Olympics stand nine inches taller. Delivered by someone with Hayes’ credibility, it was a thought-provoking argument, even for those that felt she was wrong.

Count U.S. fullback Crystal Dunn in that category. Dunn played under Hayes at Chelsea from 2017-18, but the current North Carolina Courage star said Tuesday that she prefers the goals and pitches just the way they are.

“I had read some of this stuff, yes,” a smiling Dunn said when asked about the comments. “I know Emma Hayes really well, played under her at Chelsea. Those are obviously her opinions. I personally don’t agree with it.”

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USWNT highlights from the Women's World Cup
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Sari Van Veenendaal of the Netherlands reaches for the ball as Rose Lavelle of the USA scores her team's second goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United States of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Richard Heathcote - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Alex Morgan of the USA is fouled by Stefanie Van der Gragt of the Netherlands leading to a penalty during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United States of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Megan Rapinoe of the USA celebrates with teammate Alex Morgan after scoring her team's first goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United States of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Alex Caparros - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Megan Rapinoe of the USA celebrates with teammates after scoring her team's first goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United State of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Naomi Baker - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
United States' Alex Morgan, left, competes for the ball against France's Elise Bussaglia during the Women's World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between France and the United States at the Parc des Princes, in Paris, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
United States goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher (1) deflects the ball away from France's Valerie Gauvin during the Women's World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between France and the United States at the Parc des Princes, in Paris, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
United States' Megan Rapinoe celebrates after scoring her side's second goal during the Women's World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between France and the United States at the Parc des Princes, in Paris, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Players of England celebrate after winning the Women's World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Norway and England at the Oceane stadium in Le Havre, France, Thursday, June 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
United States' Kelley O Hara leaps over Sweden's Kosovare Asllani during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between Sweden and the United States at Stade Océane, in Le Havre, France, Thursday, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 16: Julie Ertz of USA #8 celebrates her goal with Mallory Pugh, Lindsey Horan, Morgan Brian during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Chile at Parc des Princes stadium on June 16, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
LE HAVRE, FRANCE - JUNE 20: Lindsey Horan of the USA scores her team's first goal the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between Sweden and USA at Stade Oceane on June 20, 2019 in Le Havre, France. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
United States' Carli Lloyd, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring their side's third goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between United States and Chile at Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Sunday, June 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Chile goalkeeper Claudia Endler lunges for the ball to make a safe during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between United States and Chile at Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Sunday, June 16, 2019. US won 3-0. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
United States' Carli Lloyd celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between the United States and Chile at the Parc des Princes in Paris, Sunday, June 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
United States' Carli Lloyd, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between United States and Chile at Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Sunday, June 16, 2019. Lloyd scored twice in US' 3-0 victory. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
United States' Megan Rapinoe, right, congratulates teammate Alex Morgan after scoring her fifth goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between the United States and Thailand at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
United States' Alex Morgan, centre, scores her team's fifth goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between the United States and Thailand at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Mallory Pugh of USA shots to goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Megan Rapinoe of United States of America celebrates with the supporters after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Mallory Pugh of the USA celebrates after scoring her team's eleventh goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by Cathrin Mueller - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Final score on the scoreboard after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
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In explaining why, Dunn cited the performance of six-foot Chilean goalkeeper Christiane Endler, who single-handedly kept La Roja in Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the U.S. by making a series of top-shelf stops. With smaller goals, Dunn suggested, Endler may well have proven unbeatable.

“I think women do some incredible things in this game and I’m always pushing for us to be at our best, and whether you are American or not, I actually want this game to grow so much in all regards,” she said. “So for a goalkeeper to be able to compete at that level and save as many saves as she can against us, I think it’s incredible, and it’s just a testament that the goals are exactly the size that they need to be, the pitch is the size that it needs to be. That’s my opinion.”

Yahoo sports asked Dunn’s fellow defender Abby Dahlkemper if she was surprised that someone of Hayes’ stature felt such fundamental changes were necessary.

“I don’t know her personally at all, so I don’t really have any opinion on that,” she said.

Nonetheless, Dahlkemper sided with her U.S. and Courage teammate when it comes to goal and field sizes.

“Personally, I agree with everything Crystal said,” she added. “You see these breakout players like the Chilean goalkeeper, and that’s just the quality of level that women’s soccer has [reached].

“I absolutely think that they should be the way that they are.”

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