Two-time FIFA World Cup champion Carli Lloyd exchanged her number ten jersey and cleats for a sweater and jeans as she took to the stage at Cornell on Friday night.
During the Cornell University Program Board-sponsored talk with Prof. Lawrence Glickman, American studies, college and high school students, men and women, adults and children alike filled Bailey Hall. Over the course of an hour, Lloyd answered questions about falling in love with soccer, facing obstacles head-on and scoring championship-winning goals.
The New Jersey native started playing soccer, among other sports, at age five, but found a passion for soccer over all the rest.
“I was obsessed with it,” Lloyd said of the sport that would become her career.
Despite loving the sport and having “clear natural talent,” Lloyd said she didn’t have anywhere near the fitness — both physical and mental — she does now.
During her junior year at Rutgers University, Lloyd was on the U.S. Women’s National Under-21 team, but missed the cut for a tournament roster. Devastated, her first instinct was to quit the sport altogether.
But instead, she met James Galantis, her current personal coach. When he asked about her end goal in their first meeting, she answered: “I want to play for the U.S. Women’s National Team.”
After, Lloyd made soccer her number one priority, and Galantis agreed to train her — he promised that she could go on and be the best in the world. Their partnership empowered Lloyd to grow significantly: She said she was talented but had no character or drive when Galantis first became her coach.
“At 99 percent effort, I’d be on the bench,” Lloyd said of her time training under him. “There was going to be no one in the world that was going to get me to the top.”
Part of this work has been learning how to face failures, something Lloyd prefers to tackle head-on.
“Obstacles are part of life, they’re never going away,” Lloyd said. “But obstacles propel you forward, they propel you on to success — if you extract the lessons that come from them. I just roll my sleeves up and figure it out.”
One of her more prominent fights has called for equal pay between male and female athletes.
In 2016, Lloyd authored a New York Times essay calling for salary increases for the USWNT. In it, she explained her motivation for signing onto a wage discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in March 2016. The now class-action lawsuit will be heard in court in May 2020.
“It’s not just about the money, it’s equal treatment,” Lloyd explained. “In 2015, we unfortunately had our whole entire World Cup on artificial turf. I don’t think I’ve ever seen [Lionel] Messi or [Cristiano] Ronaldo playing a World Cup of artificial turf.”
“But we won anyway,” she added.
When the USWNT did win, they received bonuses of $75,000 — while their male counterparts would earn $390,000. Beyond that, the USWNT has to work “20 times harder,” taking on other opportunities like sponsorships and speaking engagements.
The fight, she said, is for the people in the stands and future generations.
Maddie Hoitink ’21, a defender on the Cornell women’s soccer team, spoke to Lloyd’s legacy for young female athletes.
“She’s just a really great role model for us, not just as a player but also as a person,” she told The Sun.
As she fights off the field for equal treatment, Lloyd has also faced challenges and disappointments on the field, not knowing if her spot is guaranteed on the team and missing key shots.
Even still, Lloyd has seen unprecedented success: she was named FIFA Player of the Year in both 2015 and 2016, and she donned two Olympic gold medals for which she scored the final-winning goals in both.
When pushed to talk about about her historic game against Japan in the 2015 World Cup final, Lloyd insisted on talking about the games leading up to the final. She felt more pressure and didn’t seem to be performing — but Galantis just kept telling her to just be “a bit better than [she was] last game.”
By the end of the tournament, she said she had fallen into a “state of flow.” The final ended with a U.S. victory: a score of 5-2 with a Lloyd hat trick, including one goal scored from midfield.
“The three goals in 2015 — I could have had five,” Lloyd joked.