USWNT captain Lindsey Horan says most Americans 'don't understand' the game but 'it's getting better'

United States' Lindsey Horan in action during the first half of an international friendly soccer match against Ireland Tuesday, April 11, 2023, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

United States’ Lindsey Horan said American fans are getting better at understanding the details of soccer, but still have a ways to go. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Lindsey Horan has a gripe with many American soccer fans.

She wishes that they tried to understand the nuances and details of the beautiful game beyond what they hear the TV commentators telling them when they tune in. The same outside research many sports fans do on their favorite teams, she would like those interested in soccer to be more curious like that.

The United States women’s national team captain talked at length with The Athletic about the team’s shortcomings in the 2023 Women’s World Cup, the growth of the sport and her opinion about the difference between American soccer fans and fans in countries where the game is more popular.

Horan, who plays for France’s Lyon, has experienced both international and domestic fanbases, and she candidly shared her take on the divide. Horan even used her mother as an example of how many Americans can’t assess how well or poorly a player is performing.

“American soccer fans, most of them aren’t smart,” Horan told The Athletic. “They don’t know the game. They don’t understand. [But] it’s getting better and better.

“I’m going to piss off some people, but the game is growing in the U.S. People are more and more knowledgeable, but so much of the time people take what the commentators say, right? My mom does it! My mom says, ‘Julie Foudy [a commentator and former USWNT midfielder] said you had such a good game!’ And I’m here just going, ‘I was f****** s*** today.'”

Thanks to her time in France, Horan knows that the American audience is more than capable of gaining a firm understanding of what’s happening on the pitch. It will require those watching to go deeper, however.

When she listens to French people discuss how she’s playing, Horan said soccer being so intrinsically tied to the culture and people paying attention to it so regularly makes all the difference.

“From what I’ve heard, people understand my game a little bit more, a sense of my football and the way I play,” Horan said. “It is the French culture. Everyone watches football. People know football.”

Horan didn’t take it easy on herself when discussing the USWNT’s abrupt end at the World Cup. She discussed her own learning curve as she gained a better understanding of exactly what it will take to succeed on one of the most competitive teams in the sport.

The USWNT has a lot to prove this year at the 2024 Olympics in Paris after a disappointing round-of-16 exit in the World Cup.

“You have to be amongst this team for a while to know what the f*** that takes … It’s one of the most competitive national teams to be a part of,” Horan said.

“In these past few games, you see little glimpses of that [how good the team can be], but it’s the final product, continuing to do that throughout the game, getting everyone on the same page, not just four or five players … We have players on the field that are faster, stronger, capable in behind, and we’re going to gut it out, right? The world is going to be very fearful.”

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