In beaming photos posted on social media Wednesday, American soccer star Alex Morgan and husband Servando Carrasco announced they were pregnant with a daughter. The due date is sometime in April.
“We are already in love and we haven’t even met her yet,” Morgan wrote. “Newest member of the Carrasco family, coming soon.”
Terrific news for Alex, Servando (who plays for the LA Galaxy of the MLS) and the 2043 U.S. Women’s National Team’s World Cup hopes.
The news also no doubt thrills Morgan’s many fans. Everyone loves a new baby. And the 30-year-old looks thrilled at becoming a mother (she even product-placement-ed a pair of pint-size Nikes in one of the photos).
It also illustrates, if we can turn the great announcement to sports, the challenges female athletes face when looking to start, or add to, families. Morgan and Carrasco met while they were both first-year students at Cal, where they both played soccer. They’ve been together since 2007 and married since 2014. To want to begin having children is beyond natural.
That decision isn’t easy, though, for any woman in any career. The work-home balance is unfairly perilous. It can be uniquely difficult for athletes, who have limited time to perform at a peak-athletic ability.
It is even more a hurdle for soccer players, who essentially participate in just two events every four years that attract widespread attention, even in the United States where the women’s game is popular.
One is the World Cup, which Morgan just helped the United States win in July. The other is the Summer Olympics, which Morgan helped the Americans take in 2012 and starts again in late July in Tokyo.
Will Morgan be ready? Last month, Sydney Leroux stepped on the pitch for the Orlando Pride just three months and one day after giving birth to her own baby girl. Following that timeframe, there is conceivably time for Morgan, if she so chooses.
If she can’t, no doubt the trade-off here is worth it. A daughter or another Olympics? Just about anyone would take the daughter, of course. Yet for Morgan, it does potentially put in jeopardy one of the few truly big-time events she could compete in.
Even long careers in soccer can be short. She’s been in three World Cups, winning it all in 2015 and 2019 and finishing as runner-up in 2011. She’s been in two Olympics, taking gold in 2012 but getting knocked out in the quarterfinals in 2016.
If 2020 in Japan doesn’t happen (and again, we’ll see) then she has to wait until the 2023 World Cup to step back into a true spotlight. It’s the unfortunate reality of the still fledgling National Women’s Soccer League and the lack of meaningful USWNT games between the twin major events.
The additional problem is that professional women’s soccer players don’t make the kind of money professional men’s soccer players do. The bulk of Morgan’s money comes from endorsements, books, movies and other outside deals. Starring in major sporting events is paramount to maintaining this.
This is a tough enough situation for other mom-athletes. WNBA players. Tennis players. The list goes on.
Yet at least in those sports there is a consistent stream of marquee events. Serena Williams missed one year of major championships, but upon returning had four opportunities a year to add to her career total (she’s amazingly reached the finals in four of her seven entrees).
Barring an unlikely surge in attention for the NWSL, Morgan won’t have that opportunity.
Women are used to dealing with challenges men never even have to consider. No man is missing an entire Olympics for the birth of a child.
Moms tend to find a way, though, usually backwards and in high heels or, in Alex Morgan’s case, cleats.
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