Since beating Mexico in the Nations League final, the United States men’s national team have had to face a larger, and far more important challenge: racism.
Following the match, USMNT player Mark McKenzie began receiving a wave of online racial abuse, targeting himself and his family.
"The amount of racial abuse and personal attacks on myself and family from 'supporters' and 'non supporters' just ain't it," McKenzie wrote on his Instagram Stories following the triumphant weekend.
He went on to pen a note and post it to twitter, explaining his mediocre performance and preaching respect in order to strongly denounce the racial abuse.
This isn't the first time a player has faced this problem.
Teammate Weston McKennie experienced a similar situation, but experienced the abuse face to face instead of online.
“I just walked back to the bench and this guy just over the fence, the fence separated us, and he was just calling me a ‘sh** ape’ and making monkey noises at me, and just a bunch of racial slurs,” McKennie recalled in an interview with Sports Illustrated.
“I always try to be bigger than what people stoop down to and their level, their mindset and their beliefs and things like that. I try not to pay attention to it as much. But that was like the first time, and it was so surreal to me that I was just like, I can’t understand this.”
Last year, Toronto FC and USMNT forward Jozy Altidore revealed the shocking amount of times he’s dealt with racism personally.
"If I had to guess how many times I've been a part of some racial type of abuse, I couldn't even guess, to be honest," Altidore said in an interview with Bleacher Report. "Easily in the hundreds, 200s, 300s...It's a very normal thing in a lot of parts of the world."
But unfortunately, the issue extends way beyond fans. Internally, the United States Soccer Federation has had a shocking amount of incidents that had led to players feeling unprotected.
In February 2021, the U.S. Soccer Federation’s athlete’s council removed a member after he delivered a seven-minute speech that included false statements and racist allegations.
While addressing players’ right to protest, former US national captain and Paralympian Seth Jahn denounced police brutality against Black Americans, minimized the effects of slavery and falsely claimed that Black Americans face as much racism as anyone else. Though the council went on to remove Jahn from the committee, it exposed the level of racism within the organization.