The England coach Hope Powell is appealing to the Football Association to capitalise on the heightened level of interest in the women's game after her team bowed out of the World Cup, losing 3-0 in the quarter-finals to the United States on Saturday.
England held world champions Germany to a goalless draw as they progressed to the last eight before capitulating in the second half of their encounter with the world's top team.
The FA invest £4.5m a year into women's football, but their players are still part-timers whereas the professional US players, who now face Brazil in Thursday's semi-final, earn a total of £850,000 a year.
Amidst talk of the domestic game switching to a summer league to attract commercial interest Powell recognises that all the hard work should not be wasted. "I don't think we've just progressed overnight," she said. "Certainly since I've been in the post, it's been nine years of hard work and steady progress.
"The support from our FA is the best it's ever been. The preparation for matches ahead of this tournament has been spot on and we need to ensure it continues. We have to ensure that the support from the FA continues. We certainly need to grab this opportunity."
Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx and Kristine Lilly scored in the space of 12 second-half minutes as England, for whom Faye White suffered a broken nose late in the first half in a clash with Wambach, were undone by the Americans' superior power. England can claim to be Europe's third-best team but Sweden and Denmark, knocked out in the group stage, will play off for the right to take England's place in the Beijing Olympics.
Powell admitted she had understood her team might represent Great Britain in next year's Games, adding: "When we were told there was the chance of going to the Olympics it became one of our big ambitions. Now we've become one of those top three [European] teams we deserve to be going and should be there. "
Goals: Wambach 48 (0-1), Boxx 57 (0-2), Lilly 60 (0-3).
England: Brown, Alex Scott, Stoney, Phillip (Sanderson 80), Asante, Chapman, White, Jill Scott, Kelly Smith, Carney, Aluko (Yankey 46).
USA: Solo, Rampone, Whitehill, Lopez, Markgraf, Boxx (Lloyd 82), Osborne, Chalupny, Lilly, Wambach (Kai 86), O'Reilly.
Referee: J Palmqvist (Sweden).Reuse content