For the love of the game: Why we're proud to support USDWNT

Alika Jenner

World Cup champion Heather O'Reilly, center, recently trained with deaf national team members Maddie Taylor, left, and Sydney Andrews.

Editor's note: The U.S. deaf women's national team recently trained alongside NWSL's FC Kansas City. U.S. women's national team members Becky Sauerbrunn and Heather O'Reilly -- who were part of the World Cup championship team last summer -- were inspired to tell the team's story.

In 1999, the U.S. women's national team won the World Cup in front of more than 90,000 people at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The players on the pitch that day went on to become legends, and their penalty-shootout victory is credited with inspiring a new generation of soccer enthusiasts. But something equally important but less well known also happened that year: The U.S. deaf women's national team was founded and played in its first competition in London, England.

The USDWNT won the inaugural gold medal at the Deaflympic Games in 2005 and then went on to win the gold again in 2009 and 2013. In 2012, the team won the first World Football Championship it contested, and this week, the USDWNT is headed to Paestum, Italy, to defend its title at the 2016 World Football Championship. Coached by former U.S. women's national team goalkeeper Amy Griffin, the USDWNT is indisputably the most dominant soccer team to ever represent the United States with an undefeated record, 122 goals scored and only eight goals conceded.

Our NWSL team, FC Kansas City, recently had the opportunity to train alongside the USDWNT. The team is as diverse as any we have ever seen with respect to age and experience, and when you dig to the core of the team, we are the same. We understand and share the pride and passion that stem from representing the United States -- while helping grow the game for all people in our country.

During our short time together, it became clear that these women epitomize what it means to play for the love of the game. The team is composed of a dedicated group of volunteer athletes, who do not receive compensation and pay for all costs for training camps and events, including equipment, travel and even team insurance.

The USDWNT also shares our passion to help empower women and girls through soccer. Somehow, between raising money, holding down jobs and/or attending school, players find the time to get out in the community. During a recent clinic, the USDWNT befriended a 3-year-old named Emma, who was also deaf. The child's mom later explained that she had never seen her daughter so excited to meet so many successful women who were like her. This chance meeting inspired the players as much as it did Emma and her mom.

Alika Jenner

Becky Sauerbrunn, left, a defender for FC Kansas City and the United States' World Cup championship team, and U.S. deaf team member Allie Galoob work together at a recent training session.

The players look forward to future opportunities to empower young women and girls, both hearing and deaf. Gallaudet University estimates that there are more than 38 million deaf or hard-of-hearing people in the United States, and we're sure they would be as inspired by this team as we were during our brief, albeit meaningful, encounter.

As the USWNT prepares for its final matches ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, we're reminded that representing the United States on the world's sporting stage is an incredible honor. We continue to be humbled by the support that we receive from our fans. The USDWNT embodies the spirit of an American women's soccer tradition rooted in hard work and relentless determination.

We feel truly privileged to have spent time with Maddie Taylor, Sydney Andrews and the rest of the USDWNT. They are an incredible team of athletes, and we are excited to follow and support their journey at the upcoming World Football Championship in Italy and beyond.

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