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Carli Lloyd slams 'toxic' USWNT culture, 'hated' playing for team late in career

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After telling Hope Solo that she "hated" playing for the U.S. Women's National Team late in her career, Carli Lloyd clarified her criticism of the program's "culture."

She's not happy with some teammates she said were more concerned with their "brand" than the team.

Lloyd announced her retirement from the USWNT after the Tokyo Olympics last summer following a storied career that included two Olympic gold medals and two World Cup championships as the program's third-leading goal scorer of all time.

She spoke with former USWNT goalie Hope Solo on her "Hope Solo Speaks" podcast on Tuesday, telling her former teammate that she didn't enjoy her later years with the program. In fact, she "hated" them.

"Even within our squad, the culture has changed," Lloyd said. "It was really tough and challenging to play these last several years. To be quite honest, I hated it. It wasn't fun going in. It was only for love of the game, really, for me.

"I wanted to win, and I wanted to help the team, but the culture within the team was the worst I’d ever seen it. I'm hoping that the future is bright and some things change."

Soccer Football - Women's International Friendly - France v USA - Stade Oceane, Le Havre, France - April 13, 2021  Carli Lloyd of the U.S. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Carli Lloyd has greivances with the USWNT. (Reuters/Benoit Tessier)

Solo starred as a goalkeeper for the USWNT from 2000-16, but saw her contract terminated by U.S. Soccer in 2016 amid a spate of off-field controversies. She told Lloyd that she understood her perspective and that she "didn't want to be around everybody and the culture of the team" late in her USWNT stint.

Solo also criticized the $24 million settlement the USWNT reached with U.S. Soccer in February over its longstanding equal pay dispute.

"When I saw the team actually signed it, I was in shock," Solo said. "Everything we had been doing to fight and then for the team to sign a less than equal contract — and then use words like 'it's equitable.' We were fighting for equal, not something close but not equal. That was really tough to see."

Lloyd told Solo in response that "there's still a bit of work to do" while arguing that the program needs to take better care of staffers as well as players.

"My wish if I could help and do something — the culture needs to change," Lloyd said. "You want people thriving. You want to empower people. You want people to be there because they love it."

Neither Lloyd nor Solo mentioned names. Solo previously criticized Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan on social media for agreeing to terms with U.S. Soccer in the equal pay fight.

'Millions ... would love to be in our shoes'

On Wednesday, Lloyd further clarified her criticism of the program's culture in an Instagram video. While she again declined to name names, she made clear that her criticism was pointed at teammates as well as management.

"By culture, I am referring to mentality. Respect for coaches, teammates, support staff. I'm also talking about the drive, the desire, the hunger, the fight, the accepting a role and doing it to the best of your ability.

"Giving it your all every time you step on the field, giving it your all in training, and giving it your all whether it's five minutes on the field, 10 minutes on the field, 60 minutes on the field or 90 minutes on the field. It doesn't matter.

"You represent the crest and you represent your country with pride because there are millions of other people who would love to be in our shoes playing on the national team, and so you can never take it for granted."

Lloyd specifically criticized teammates for being more focused on building their brands than winning while speaking with "The State of the Union" podcast on Tuesday. She said that she saw a change in focus after the USWNT won the 2015 World Cup, describing the culture afterward as "toxic."

“In 2015, winning a World Cup obviously put us on a really big, big stage, and endorsements started coming, and the spotlight started coming, and I just saw a shift in people’s mindsets,” Lloyd said (2:36 above). “It became more about 'what can I do to build my brand off the field? What can I do to get an endorsement deal' and less about what we have to do when we step in between those lines.”