As people celebrate the triumphant victory of the U.S. women’s soccer team over Japan in the Women’s World Cup finals (and celebrate that victory with lazily racist Pearl Harbor jokes), they’re probably overlooking the weirdness of the U.S. squad’s overwhelmingly white racial composition. How can a team representing one of the world’s most racially diverse countries, in a sport whose stateside popularity is bostered by non-white Americans, be so white? 

An ESPNW article from June explores the practice of U.S. dual citizens playing for other countries, but opens with an eyebrow-raising account of Mexican-American player Teresa Noyola (now playing for Mexico’s squad) being deterred from the U.S. team by U.S. U20 coach Jill Ellis (who now coaches the victorious U.S. national squad): 

“ ‘If I were you, I’d consider playing for Mexico,’ said Jill Ellis, then the coach of the U20 U.S. women’s national team.

“This wasn’t quite the advice midfielder Teresa Noyola expected to hear in late 2009. After all, the Mexico-born, U.S.-raised Noyola had been named America’s best prep player in 2008, and she was the youngest member at 18 years old on the U20 roster that included future U.S. stars Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux. She would go on to win the 2011 Hermann Trophy as a senior at Stanford University, the same award – college soccer’s Heisman – current U.S. mainstays Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press won in 2009 and 2010, respectively…

…”Still, Noyola never saw the bomb coming from Ellis, now head coach for the U.S. women’s national team. ‘At that time,’ Noyola says, ‘I was fully committed to the U.S.’

“As Noyola walked away from that conversation, she reached the same conclusion many American women with soccer skills and more than one passport had before her: If she was ever going to play in the World Cup, it wouldn’t be for the United States, the standard bearer of women’s soccer. Instead, she would have to achieve her dreams wearing the colors of another country.”

Is this just standard procedure for those talented players with dual citizenship, or those with parental claims that would allow them to play for other countries? Doubtful, considering that U.S. player Sydney Leroux was born in Canada and played for her birth-country’s U19 team. So as the U.S. team recieves increasing praise for its athletic and cultural victories—putting women’s sports on a platform not seen in a long time—it’s worth asking why this team doesn’t look much like the country it represents. 

Click here to read the full ESPNW article.