It was the Cinderella story that everybody wanted to see happen.
FC Dallas Youth Affiliates and Elite Club National League coach Ben Waldrum could be in Canada right now as an assistant coach preparing the “Cinderella” team, Trinidad and Tobago, for the Women’s World Cup. Unfortunately, a 1-0 loss in the second leg of a home-and-home with Ecuador kept the story that could have been from happening.
“I still say to this day that if we had qualified, it would have been a Disney movie,” Waldrum said. “It was such a good story and just to fall short was a little disheartening.”
Trinidad and Tobago captured Dallas’ heart when the team came to town before the qualifiers with only $500 given from the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation. Waldrum and the Trinidad and Tobago head coach, his father Randy, sent out a tweet that went viral to help raise money for the team to have the basic necessities such as food and a place to stay - and Dallas responded. Almost $20,000 was raised for the team's trip in less than 72 hours.
“It was really more of a social issue in that country just about women in sports,” Waldrum said. “A lot of those players hadn’t been paid in 10 years. All they wanted was stipends when they took off from their job when they went to represent their country.”
Although the team fell just short of making the Women’s World Cup, Waldrum said that experience gave him more perspective on the women’s game and the growth of it in lieu of the tournament kicking off.
“I know the World Cup has expanded with the number of teams and really I think the reasoning behind that is you’re starting to see more and more federations putting money toward the women’s side of the things,” he said. “The popularity is starting to grow more in other countries. The parity in the women’s side has really gotten better. Teams are evolving and countries are getting better.”
Even though he wishes he were sitting on the bench coaching for the Women’s World Cup, Waldrum told a parent group Wednesday he’ll still be sitting and cheering on the tournament no matter how hard it might be on him.
“I think the soccer curiosity of how the teams are going to be matched up, you’ll be tuned in,” he said. “We’ll be watching. It’ll be interesting some of the matchups, and we’ll be excited about it. I think that’s where the soccer coach goes away and the soccer fan comes into play.”
Waldrum said the tournament should be most interesting because, unlike most years, there isn't just one to two favorites.
“You have four to five teams I think that if they won the World Cup, I don’t think anybody would be too surprised,” Waldrum said. “I think for the growth of the sport, it’s no different from what we do week in and week out with the youth teams. I think there’s a little bit of [how] you have to show that the women cannot only play the game but can be entertaining.”
As for women’s soccer post the World Cup to continue to grow; Waldrum said he would like to see a NWSL team make its way to Dallas.
“This is probably one of three hot beds across the US with youth soccer hot beds with the number of kids playing the sports, the number of clubs that are here,” he said. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t have a NWSL team. It only helps grow the game and only helps that next level growth that needs to take place for us to continue to stay on top.”
The Women’s World Cup will kickoff at 5 p.m. Saturday between Canada and China. The US will take on Australia in its first match Monday. All games will be shown through Fox Sports Network.