By Steve Ginsburg
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Tuesday lauded the World Cup champion U.S. women’s soccer team for inspiring “millions of girls to dream bigger” and suggested that goal-scoring phenom Carli Lloyd might want to consider becoming his White House successor.
Obama, a big sports fan with two teenage daughters, honored the team during a White House East Room ceremony for its World Cup victory in Canada in July, defeating Japan 5-2 in the tournament final behind midfielder Lloyd’s three goals.
“They’ve inspired millions of girls to dream bigger, and by the way, inspired millions of boys to look at girls differently, which is just as important,” said Obama, who was joined by Vice President Joe Biden at the ceremony.
“This team taught all America’s children that ‘playing like a girl’ means you’re a badass,” Obama said with a laugh, before adding, “Perhaps I shouldn’t have used that phrase.”
Obama said Lloyd’s performance in the tournament final was so good that by the time the game was over someone had changed her title on her Wikipedia page from “midfielder” to “President of the United States.”
“By the way, the job is about to open up,” said Obama, who leaves office in January 2017 after next year’s election. “What’s another candidate in the mix? I guarantee you Carli knows more about being president than some of the folks who are running.”
Obama praised Lloyd for her big-game heroics. She scored game-winners in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medal contests before tallying three goals in the first 16 minutes of this summer’s World Cup finals.
“I had gotten my popcorn. I was all settling in. I’m thinking I’ve got a couple hours of tension and excitement. And poof, it was gone,” Obama said. “It was over.”
The team gave Obama a U.S. soccer jersey with his name and the number 44 – he is America’s 44th president – on the back.
Obama also noted an unusual tribute to team member Megan Rapinoe. “A farmer in California built a corn maze in the shape of Megan Rapinoe’s face. I mean, I thought I was cool a few years ago when somebody made a bust of me out of butter. But Megan has got an entire cornfield,” Obama said.
He exhorted the team to “bring home the gold” at the Olympics in Brazil next year.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Lloyd told reporters afterward. “We’re always up for challenges.”
(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham)