Exclusive: Erin McLeod talks women’s soccer, getting hitched, and being out in sports

Erin McLeod is an Olympic medalist, the starting goalkeeper for Canada’s national women’s soccer team and an out and proud athlete.

Erin was on hand to open PrideHouse Toronto Pavilion this Wednesday morning ahead of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. We spoke to this beast between the bars about playing at home, her future in the game, marriage, and her thoughts on the U.S. win.


AfterEllen.com: So how do you think the Canadian women did as a team during the World Cup?

Erin McLeod: Having watched how the rest of the tournament panned out, I believe as a team we still have progress to make, obviously. But I don’t think that we were that far behind basically any of the teams. The U.S., in my opinion, was a better team than everyone else that was there. I felt like everyone else was pretty even.


AE: Was there that pressure of playing at home?

EM: I think there was obviously increased pressure. I feel like we had moments of brilliance, and then we had moments where we kind of disconnected as a team. We did give it everything that we had, and I think that now we know what to expect.


AE: There were a lot of younger players on the team this year. Do you think you didn’t quite hit the nail on the head when it came to mixing youth with experience?

EM: I thought our young players were excellent for us. These old players have been around for a really long time and I think it’s only going to help our team that we’re getting this pressure from the youth. I know John [Herdman] is over concerned with our average age and it’s getting too high. I’m sure there’ll be changes. That’s the way it is.

Netherlands v Canada: Group A - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015

AE: Watching you play, I’d say this was a good tournament for you. Would you agree?

EM: I think this is the best that I’ve ever played. I was proud of the way I played. I had never put more effort into the mental side of the game as I had leading up to this tournament, and I think it made a really big difference.


AE: With older players like Abby Wambach considering retirement, has that got you contemplating it?

EM: It’s so hard as a goalkeeper. It’s different I think. You watch Buffon [the Italian men’s national team goalkeeper] and some of like the best male goalkeepers in the world are like 38-39. I originally thought this would be my last hurrah, but it’s also difficult when I’m playing better than I’ve ever played. I think if I can take care of myself and stay healthy, I’m not really going to put a cap on it.


AE: Do you think it would have made a difference if Canada had won the title and you could have sort of ridden off into the sunset?

EM: I don’t think it would have made a difference. We haven’t won a gold in the Olympics and we haven’t won a World Cup. I rewrite my goals every year and that’s in them every year. If I’m not healthy and if I’m not fit enough, or if I’m not able, then obviously that’s one thing. But that’s still something I want to do.


AE: There has been controversy surrounding the tournament, particularly around the prize money and the fact that you had to play on artificial turf. What are your thoughts on this?

EM: It’s hard to compare the men and women’s game. I think financially, I know that Canada’s goal was to make it affordable so that all families could go and that everybody could go. And I know that when you talk about the men’s World Cup, the ticket prices are ridiculous, there’s only a select people that can go–you don’t see like a whole family going. If you’re paying 10 times more for tickets, they are going to be making 10 times more money. That’s kind of the reality of it.

So I think it is different. Obviously it’s not easy to hear that. And I think the women’s game is still growing. I think the real positive part about this World Cup is that minus maybe one or two teams, there’s like 10 teams that can be fighting for the top three or four positions. And we haven’t had that.

England v Canada

AE: But not being on an even playing field in terms of, literally, your playing field, is that an issue for you?

EM: I’m going to give you the PC answer. I know that we’re all playing on the same surface and we all play in leagues all around the world. Everyone’s playing on turf. Will they do it again? I don’t know. But I do know that because we have the turf we now have better stadiums for the future of Canadian sports teams. I hope that’s the main reason why they did it. I can sleep at night knowing that.


AE: With three out players and an out coach, no other team has been as out as the U.S. and won such a big title. What are your thoughts on that?

EM: I thought it was really cool to see them celebrating and obviously deservedly so, and kissing their significant others. I just thought that was really cool and showed just how far we’ve come.


AE: Now given that you play in the U.S. and that your girlfriend Ella Masar is a former U.S. national team player, did you figure if it couldn’t be Canada it might as well be the U.S. taking the title?

EM: No, it’s not like that at all. I think that the team that deserved to win won. I thought the U.S. were phenomenal in the last game and the second-to-last game. I thought they peaked at the right time. So all credit to them. I think having Ella play for the U.S. wasn’t a–we actually got married on Monday.


AE: Wow, congrats. Is that an exclusive?

EM: Nobody knows that yet, I don’t think. So yeah, I’m hoping to convert her.

erin-mcleod- Ella Masar


AE: So, no honeymoon?

EM: No, I think we’re going to have to wait until the end of season.


AE: You came out post-Sochi. Why then?

EM: I think after Sochi I was like, “How can I not go up to Ella?” Ella inspires me everyday to be a better soccer player, a better human being. I have a couple of gay aunts and I have like people in my life who have helped me to be who I am. I was like, “This is the time.”


AE: You’re promoting the PanAm Games. What do you hope these games accomplish for LGBT athletes?

EM: It would be nice to see more athletes come out after the Pan Am Games. I’m hoping that Toronto will be so welcoming and such a great environment that they’re like, “There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t be comfortable with who we are.”


The Pan Am Games will be played in Toronto July 10 through July 26. The Parapan Am Games take over from August 7 to August 15. As for Erin, you can watch her play for the Houston Dash throughout the summer.