On the Road With F.C. Kansas City

People have no idea. They hear professional athlete and think private jets, million-dollar salaries, five-star hotels and the kind of glamour that is simply not the reality for most of us. While we would love one day to attain these fancy perks as a part of our job in the National Women’s Soccer League, for the moment we are firmly rooted in what we do have.

We embrace the life because we are ambitious, and because we love to play the game. We appreciate the camaraderie of our teammates, and so, more often than not, we are able to laugh at ourselves, and each other, when we sit next to someone in an airplane who says:

“You’re professional soccer players? Cool! Why are you flying coach?”


Travel in the N.W.S.L. briefly made news this season when two top players tweeted about substandard accommodations on the road, but the reality is that while we are not put up in five-star hotels, we are typically comfortable enough. To offer a glimpse into our lives, I recently took notes — and photos — on a late-season trip to New Jersey.

Travel day for F.C. Kansas City begins at our apartment complex, where we load up a shuttle bus to the airport. Only in the playoffs do we travel earlier than the day before the game, and upon our arrival in an opponent’s city we rent minivans and put a veteran player behind the wheel. I’m a proud member of Leigh Ann Robinson’s van; Leigh Ann doesn’t stand for any nonsense, on or off the road, and she dominates lanes on the highway the same way she dominates the right side of our back line.


Each host team has an affiliate hotel where the visiting team stays. Sometimes, the wide eyes of the children who see us staying at the same place they do for a youth tournament reminds me that, in a lot of ways, we have come full circle. Yes, 12-year-olds in the hotel running up and down the hallway, we are just like you. (Except the knock-on-someone’s-door-and-run routine got old for us a long time ago.)

In our league, there is little room for extravagance. We know that we are giving up some perks to see the N.W.S.L. go where no previous women’s professional league has gone in the United States — into a fourth year of existence — and so we travel modestly, carrying our own team gear (although we do our best to pass that off to the rookies) and stretching our meal money with van trips to some of our go-to places: Panera, Chipotle, Corner Bakery, Jamba Juice.

The upside? We get to experience some special moments with fans who have traveled long distances simply to meet us and with excited children who scream our names and hold signs.

Next week will be even more special. Our team, F.C. Kansas City, is in Portland, Ore., to play Seattle in the N.W.S.L. championship game on Oct. 1 (9:30 p.m., Eastern time, Fox Sports 1). While we’re there, we will train at Nike headquarters and get to shop in Nike’s employee store. Our game will be televised nationally, and we will play in front of a capacity crowd — around 22,000 — at Providence Park stadium. But the irony is that at the heart of it, we are not so different from those young children who cheer our names. Maybe that’s a good thing.

We play on because we love it, even as some of our friends drop out of the league for reasons personal, professional or financial. We often choose middle seats on flights so we can work on crossword puzzles together, and we pile into vans knowing that we’re all in this together. We get taped at our hotel before games if there’s no athletic training room at the stadium, and if there’s nice shampoo and conditioner in the locker room, I’ll be honest: We’ll wash our hair for the third time that day just so it doesn’t go to waste.


That is part of what it means to be a female professional soccer player in the United States right now. We don’t travel like players in the N.F.L. or the N.B.A., or even like the World Cup-winning women’s national team. But we dream of what their days must look like, and we will continue to work toward it, slowly but surely. Until that day, we gratefully embrace the opportunity that we have.

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