Publishers tie into a sport that could achieve breakout with next month's Women's World Cup

In 1994 HARPERCOLLINS executive editor David Hirshey wrote an article for Newsweek entitled "Revenge of a Soccer Weenie," about the world catching up to his favorite sport.

It certainly has. And now, hoping to tie into a major media breakout, HarperCollins and other U.S. publishers are releasing women's soccer books right around next month's Women's World Cup, a 32-game, three-week tournament that is shaping up to be the largest single-sport women's event ever.

The games, which begin June 19 at New York area's Giants stadium and then travel to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. They also will be broadcast on ABC and ESPN and in 65 countries, with a potential worldwide TV audience of one billion. More than 325,000 tickets to the games have been sold, greatly exceeding attendance records of the two previous Women's World Cups, which were held in China in 1991 and in Sweden in 1995.

For sale in stadiums will be Rizzoli's Universe Publishing's just released picture-and-essay compilation Women's Soccer: The Game and the World Cup, both an official publication of the U.S. Soccer Federation and an official licensed product of the Women's World Cup (an official program is available from Pindar Press.)

"I think this sport will break out just like ice skating did," said Universe publisher Charles Miers. He believes that via stadiums, bookstores and other outlets, he'll sell as many copies of this book -- about 40,000 -- as he did of one Universe released for the men's World Cup, held in the U.S. in 1994.

The women's soccer games will have a particularly strong U.S. fan base -- not only is the Cup is set here, but the U.S. team, which won the Olympic Gold Medal in 1996, is favored to win.

Next month, HarperCollins is publishing a book by one of that team's most high profile members, Mia Hamm, already an omnipresent celebrity endorser (currently starring with Michael Jordan in Gatorade commercials), author of her own syndicated fitness column and subject of several young adult trade paperback biographies. Hamm's Go for the Goal: A Champion's Guide to Winning in Soccer and Life will go out with a 50,000-copy first printing, and an excerpt from the book will run in the June issue of Sports Illustrated for Women, which hits newsstands May 27. Acquiring editor Hirshey knows what a role model Hamm is to young girls -- his daughter, who plays on a team that Hirshey coaches, is one of the acolytes pictured with Hamm on page 115 of the book.

Current Harper YA authors Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (of TV's Full House and Two of a Kind fame) have also played with Hamm. The twins are Women's World Cup junior ambassadors and they're also making upcoming soccer film Switching Goals, to which Parachute Press, their book packager, expects to develop a tie-in.

Some seven million girls play on soccer teams today, part of a girls' sports boom that's a consequence and trickle-down effect of the 1972 passage of Title IX, a law that decreed women must receive equal opportunity to participate in sports at most American colleges and universities.

Indeed, while Universe publisher Miers believes he's one of the first publishers to commit to women's soccer books because of his company's Italian (and thus soccer-loving) roots, he, too, is part of this grassroots U.S. phenomenon: his daughter also plays on a team.

One such team, Santa Rosa, Calif.'s "Team Thunder," is profiled in Jonathan Littman's The Beautiful Game: Sixteen Girls and the Soccer Season That Changed Everything. Publisher Avon is releasing the book in June to capitalize on Women's World Cup fever and plans informal giveaways of the book at Women's World Cup events. Next month, Littman, who last wrote about hacker Kevin Paulsen in The Watchman, will launch a Web site ( to provide links and commentary on this growing sport.

These publishers believe their books fall into that tricky but potentially profitable adult/young adult crossover category, with soccer moms and dads just as important targeted potential buyers as their soccer-playing kids. For that former audience in particular, however, Rodale has just released a tailor-made book: Goal: The Ultimate Guide for Soccer Moms and Dads, written by U.S. women's soccer team member Gloria Averbuch.