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Former U.S. women's national team (USWNT) goalkeeper Hope Solo says the team has a "very privileged, white culture", and recounted her experience of being bullied when she first joined the group.
The goalkeeper was no stranger to controversy as well, seeing her U.S. Soccer contract terminated in 2016 after she called Sweden "a bunch of cowards" for their defensive style in their shock Olympic quarter-final win over the USWNT.
Speaking on The Players podcast fromBBC Sport and COPA90, Solo recounted the difficult experiences she had when first joining the USWNT.
“We were bullied, let’s be honest," Solo said. "You’re supposed to be competitive, and you want to join the team and be the starter, but at the same time if you have that sense of confidence in yourself, it’s not always a good thing. You have to earn every step of it.
"When we grew up on the team it was cut-throat. People were not nice to us, people were not welcoming, they didn’t invite you to sit at the dinner table. It was really difficult growing up on the national team for me in a social aspect as well as learning the game. It is a much more open and welcome environment now.”
Also appearing on the podcast was Carli Lloyd, who is still with the USWNT after a decorated career that has seen her win two World Cups and consecutive FIFA world player of the year awards in 2015 and 2016.
Lloyd concurred with Solo's experience coming through the team's ranks.
"Hope and I, coming through the international team, it was so hard," Lloyd said. "I would go home to my room and cry afterwards because people were kind of mean to me. It was just the competitive nature.
"When I was first coming into the team, I had the Jersey swagger a little bit.I’m like, ‘I don’t care who you are, or what you’ve accomplished or done, I’m coming for your spot’.”
Solo added that there was alsoa racial dynamic at play with the USWNT, as soccer in the United States is very often a sport more accessible for high-income communities.
"When you grow up on the national team, there was a mean girls club," Solo added."It was a mean girls club. Most players have come from rich, white families. That is the culture of the United States women’s national team. It is a very privileged, white culture.