Alex Morgan talks World Cup, her new business venture and the future of women’s soccer

San Diego Wave star Alex Morgan poses with kids at Wednesday's event.
San Diego Wave star Alex Morgan poses with kids at Wednesday’s event.
(Tom Krasovic / U-T)

San Diego Wave star is partnering with Solana Beach businessman on San Diego’s Soccer Post stores


When word got out he was opening a soccer store in Solana Beach, Brian Enge heard from a local soccer enthusiast who said she’d liked to invest in the business.

Her name? Alex Morgan.

Kind of like Taylor Swift calling up a local garage band and asking if they needed a singer.

Talk about an easy decision for Enge, who on Wednesday afternoon saw the Alex Morgan effect up close when some 25 lottery-winning girls from five local soccer clubs lined up outside the Soccer Post store, eager to meet the Wave and U.S. national team star whose Instagram account numbers 10 million followers. In tow were a few local TV camera folks and newspaper reporters from San Diego and Los Angeles.

It didn’t hurt Enge that his daughter Sierra is a rookie midfielder on the Wave, or that Morgan had a prior affiliation with the soccer-store chain.

But Morgan long ago was keen on inspiring girls, saying she aspires to build upon the opportunities her parents and many others created for her as she grew up in Diamond Bar east of Los Angeles.

“I just loving seeing the next generation come here today and just feel a little more inspired,” said Morgan, whose San Diego foundation will get some of the store’s proceeds during the upcoming World Cup.

The 33-year-old striker’s nurturing skills extend as well to the youthful Wave, who are atop the National Women’s Soccer League at the season’s midway point and will face rival Angel City on Saturday at Snapdragon Stadium. And more so than ever, she’ll want to fast-track U.S. teammates this summer — both before and during the World Cup that opens July 20 in Australia and New Zealand.

If the Americans are to win a third consecutive World Cup, they’ll probably need several first-time Cup participants to perform well and that will entail learning from Morgan. As you’d expect, the veteran spoke highly of the young playmakers, having teamed up with many of them in U.S. exhibitions dating to July.

“You look at Sophia Smith, Naomi Girma, Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez — that’s just to name a few,” Morgan said of four NWSL players who are, in order, 22 years old, 23, 21 and 24. “These players have come in and dominated both at the club and the international level. That is an important piece to us performing well at the World Cup and us having a complete picture.”

Elaborating as she often does when discussing women’s soccer, Morgan hit on bigger realities and trends that ultimately shape the outcomes on the soccer field.

“We’ve always been trended as an older team because of the more opportunities in the U.S. to keep playing soccer in comparison to other countries,” she said of the U.S. program. “Other countries have leagues where women are able to compete past 25, 26, 27. They’re making a good living. We need to make sure that we’re looking at everything we can do to be the best. And these young players are going to play a huge part in that.”

Alex Morgan smiles during Wednesday's announcement.
Alex Morgan smiles during Wednesday’s announcement.
(Soccer Post)

So when asked why she believes that the competition in this summer’s Cup, her third, will prove tougher than what she has experienced with the U.S. club, Morgan spoke of the economic growth of the women’s game in other countries. She hit on the underlying forces. Economics. Opportunities for girls and women.

Morgan praised the growth of leagues in Europe and also Mexico, though Mexico won’t be one of the 32 countries participating this summer. She noted that in March, England’s top women’s league signed a broadcast rights deal with the BBC and Sky Sports. According to the Guardian newspaper, the payoff of about $10 million per year made it the biggest broadcasting deal for any women’s soccer league.

“There’s a lot of different things I can point to, to say why this is the most competitive World Cup ever,” Morgan said. “Fact of the matter is, female soccer players are being valued, embraced, appreciated in the way that we’ve always fought for. So, I think it’s just going to be a great showing.”

Morgan isn’t the only soccer star with a long reach in the United States. According to Soccer Post’s Blake Sonnek-Schmelz, the 40-store chain sold some 1,000 Lionel Messi jerseys on the recent day the Argentine star signed with Inter Miami of Major League Soccer. Price of the jersey: $90.

In San Diego, where the soccer ball keeps bouncing higher and higher, Messi could be an opponent come 2025, when an MLS expansion club is to open its first season in the same Mission Valley Stadium where the Wave play.