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What the USWNT’s success means for the future of women and soccer

Complete with a blaze of dominating efforts, magnificent goals scored and saved, and even a back-and-forth between its star player and the president, the US Women’s National Soccer Team won its second straight World Cup Sunday, July 7.

After defeating the Netherlands 2-0 in the final, the USWNT finished the tournament outscoring its opponents 26-3. That is insane.

But this domination begs for a bigger question to be answered. An answer that comes from outside of the lines on the pitch. Why does the Women’s National Team make significantly less money than the Men’s National Team?

All arguments of the men’s team bringing in more money are false and ignorant, and while the women’s team has won four of the eight Women’s World Cups in history, the men’s team’s highest finish was third… back in 1930.

If success isn’t the main factor by which salaries are determined and bonuses are given out, surely TV ratings and the revenue garnered are better identifiers.

Nike Chief Executive Mark Parker recently reported the USWNT’s home jersey “is now the number one soccer jersey, men’s or women’s, ever sold on in one season.”

The USWNT were favorites going into this year’s world cup after winning the tournament in 2015 and finishing second to Japan in 2011. But tournament favorites do not usually outperform expectations like this.

In fact, more often than not, expectations become too much for a team. We saw it happen in Brazil for the 2014 Men’s World Cup where they hosted and arguably had the most stacked roster. We also were reminded again in 2018, when Germany lost in the group stage to Mexico.

From fiscal years 2016 to 2018, the women’s games generated more than $900,000 more revenue than the men’s games. And in the year following the 2015 World Cup win, women’s games generated more than $1.9 million more than the men’s games, which even takes into account the fees that opposing teams pay in order to play the men’s team.

What about the bonuses for success in a world cup? A drastic difference.

Flat out, the men’s team just isn’t that good. While in 2014, fans had hope of a new age of soccer coming in when the USMNT placed in the round of 16, the team couldn’t even qualify for the 2018 World Cup. They have a bright young star in Christian Pulisic and not much else.

Megan Rapinoe, captain of the USWNT who recently told trump to fu*k off, won the golden boot after finishing the tournament with six goals and three assists, becoming only the second American to ever win it.

Rapinoe was the face of the USWNT this tournament, with her pink hair flopping in the wind, and her brazen attitude and leadership only one-upped by her play on the field.

Amidst a well-documented fight of sorts with the president, Rapinoe scored the first and decisive goal against the Netherlands yesterday in the most high-pressure moment possible. She is a star, and unabashedly her.

Rapinoe was also the first woman and non-NFL player to take a knee during the national anthem in 2016, in support of Colin Kaepernick.

Before 2015, the USWNT previously won the Women’s World Cup in 1999 and 2003 ( I urge you to watch Dare to Dream: The Story of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team).

Back then, women’s soccer was starting to gain traction in America, with a beautiful style of play, winning results, and stars in Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy, and a young Abby Wambach.

The height of popularity in the sport has surely not reached its pinnacle, but the stars of today’s game like Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and others, could surely thank the 1999 and 2003 teams for helping pave the way.

Now, the USWNT is suing the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination, with a focus on the gap between the men’s and women’s teams. This lawsuit is definitely warranted, and it comes right on the heels of the women’s world cup win.

Why wait? Public opinion can play a big role in lawsuits such as this and what better time to call for equality than when you are smack dab in the public eye? There is an argument that the women deserve to be paid more than the men, but one battle at a time.

In winning the tournament in such a dominating fashion, the USWNT actually exceeded expectations, something unheard of for a pre-tournament favorite. The camaraderie between teammates and leadership in the locker room is a big part of what made it possible.

Often times egos and petty disputes bring down a dynasty. Just think of the early-2000’s Los Angeles Lakers. Or the late-90’s Chicago Bulls. There was none of that with the USWNT, and their celebrations after the win prove how close they are with one another.

These women are role models, in bravery, perseverance, and unity. They deserve what their success warrants in equal pay and perhaps more than that. I believe they will get it.