The US men’s national team is a wildly diverse group hailing from across the United States and beyond. A wide range of ethnic heritages are represented among the current player pool and upwards of a dozen players recently called up are or were also eligible to represent other nations via their ancestry.

That’s a key element in what’s noteworthy about their detailed statement, released ahead of their 0-0 friendly draw with Uruguay on Sunday, urging members of Congress to advance any and all of the legislation currently being proposed to address the country’s skyrocketing rates of gun violence.

“With legislation being considered in the coming days in the House and Senate, we implore you to stand with the majority of Americans who support stronger gun laws,” read one passage from the letter.

“Those who have lost their lives to senseless gun violence – and their families and friends that are left grieving – are very much in our thoughts and prayers,” noted another. “But like the all-too-often moments of silence that we use at our matches to honor the victims, our thoughts and prayers won’t solve this problem.”

The USMNT also wore orange armbands to express their support for action on gun violence, and head coach Gregg Berhalter opened his postgame press conference in Kansas City with extended praise for his players’ expression on the issue.

“Starting outside of soccer, just really proud of the entire group today for the letter that was sent to everyone in Congress calling them to action,” said Berhalter. “It's sometimes it's easy to get caught up in our little world and what we're doing, and you forget about what's happening in the outside world, but this group certainly didn't do that. And you saw the letter and the orange armbands and you know, everyone's just tired of it. It's good that this group is asking for action and asking people to make change and ‘be the change’ is something we've been part of for a while now, and this is just applying it in another area.

“The wear orange actually came from a girl named Hadiya Pendleton, from Chicago, ironically, you know, we're based in Chicago, a 15-year-old who was shot and killed in a park after she took her final exams in school,” he added. “And it's not only about the mass shootings that you see every day, but it's just about the needless gun violence and the kids and the people that are dying every day. So I'm really proud of the group.”

Recent mass-shooting events in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas have renewed the wider sense of urgency about astronomical levels of gun violence, which have become the leading cause of death among the nation’s children and teens.

But the bills currently under discussion on Capitol Hill – which already fall well short of the more extensive reforms urged by President Joe Biden last week – face a very uncertain future. Most Senate Republicans, many of whom have received millions in campaign contributions from gun manufacturers and interest groups over the years, are firmly resistant to any kind of new regulations or responsibilities for firearm buyers.

That’s why Sunday’s statements reflect a new degree of commitment to speaking out on the issues that matter most. The USMNT are taking their overarching slogan of “be the change,” which dates back to discussions held among the squad during the national conversations about racism, justice and police violence in 2020, to new frontiers as they count down to the World Cup this fall.

“I hope you guys can all realize why we did it. I think it’s getting to a point where [it’s about] anything that we can do and trying to take action,” US star Christian Pulisic told journalist Grant Wahl on Sunday. “People can say ‘it’s not the guns, it’s the people,’ but we have to start somewhere, and that’s where we wanted to start.”

Putting a slogan like “be the change” on pregame warm-up jackets is laudable. Giving players the scope to add their own custom touches on it is even more impressive.

Internally navigating what is surely a broad range of personal viewpoints on difficult topics and emerging with a specific message of explicit political advocacy is elevating it to another level, not least when it comes to a legislative push that may well fail even though polls show that its core principles are supported by a clear majority of US residents. And in all likelihood doing so will antagonize at least a chunk of their fanbase who prefer the old days of firmer firewalls between sports and politics.

Anyone who needed a reminder of how hopelessly out of touch such firewalls are in these times only had to watch Sunday’s incredibly intense World Cup qualifying playoff between Wales and Ukraine, a game that was far more than just a game to the latter nation as it fights off a prolonged, bloody invasion by Russia. The questionable human-rights record of Qatar, the host of this fall’s tournament, looks likely to prompt further reflections and expressions from the USMNT.

“We’ve really talked about embracing this ‘be the change’ mantra for a couple years now, and that came internally. And a lot of that is making sure that we take action,” said Nashville SC defender Walker Zimmerman, who told Wahl that Berhalter assisted with the drafting of the letter.

“It’s not something that we just want to keep in our thoughts and prayers, even though those things are also very important. But we want to be a team that takes action and has a response. For the guys to unanimously step up and say, we want to send this letter, we approve this letter, it just makes me proud to be a part of it, and ultimately I think shows our growth as men, as United States citizens, as representatives of this country at that level.”

With their visibility, the USMNT are de facto ambassadors for their country, especially when they earn the right to participate in massive global events like the World Cup. And the many of them who ply their trade overseas gain a new perspective on topics like gun violence in the process, as defender Reggie Cannon explained to last week. That should only add further moral and logical weight to their stance.

Inking a groundbreaking joint collective-bargaining agreement with the US women’s national team that ushers in true equal pay was a striking statement of purpose from the USMNT. Sunday showed that they plan on advancing further still. Even if you don’t agree with the principles they’re standing for, that kind of bravery deserves your respect.