United States women’s national soccer team, USWNT, earned a record fourth title win when they faced off against the Netherlands, the European champions, July 7 for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. This 2-0 win marks the culmination of the immense skill and hard work demonstrated by these athletes over the years.
The USWNT has now won four World Cup titles, including the first one in 1991. The team has also won four Olympic gold medals. The USWNT has medaled in every World Cup and Olympic tournament in women’s soccer history from 1991-2015. However, being knocked out in the quarterfinal of the 2016 Summer Olympics has not stopped the team from pushing forward. This was the USWNT’s third consecutive World Cup final game and second consecutive final win.
The semifinal match was held July 2, and it fittingly featured England versus the USWNT. The U.S. team prevailed over England with a score of 2-1. Having this particular matchup play so close to Independence Day filled fans with thoughts of the American Revolution.
In addition to fighting to win on the field, the members of the USWNT fight a different battle off the field — a battle for equality. The USWNT is disputing with the United States Soccer Federation over gender discrimination, specifically regarding equal pay. This battle has lasted several years already.
The players compare their pay, performance and resources to those of the United States men’s national soccer team. When the women filed a wage-discrimination action against the USSF with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016, one of the examples they provided was the men’s team was awarded $9 million after reaching round 16 in the 2014 World Cup. The women, who won the 2015 Women’s World Cup, were awarded $2 million.
In 2017, a new collective bargaining agreement was made. This agreement increased the level of pay for the women but failed to guarantee equal pay to the men’s team.
Flash forward to March 2019 — all 28 members of the current team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the USSF. This lawsuit not only addresses the level of pay for the players but also their playing, training and travel conditions.
According to a March 8 article in The New York Times, “The women’s players argue that they are required to play more games than the men’s team, that they win more of them and yet still receive less pay from the federation.”
The latest concern for the women’s team is the men’s Copa America and Gold Cup finals were on the same day as the Women’s World Cup final. USWNT player Megan Rapinoe has spoken out about the issue, calling it “an insult” in a July 4 New York Post article. FIFA maintains they scheduled the three matches on the same day deliberately as an exciting treat for viewers.
“It is so disturbing to me that the Women’s World Cup does not have its own day to stand on its own and have a final to highlight these tremendous athletes and their work and their accomplishment,” said former American midfielder Aly Wagner, now Fox’s lead World Cup match analyst.
The New York Times article noted the USWNT has sparked an international demand for respect among the female athletes in other countries as well.
“We very much believe it is our responsibility,” Rapinoe said, “not only for our team and for future U.S. players, but for players around the world — and frankly women all around the world — to feel like they have an ally in standing up for themselves, and fighting for what they believe in, and fighting for what they deserve and for what they feel like they have earned.”
A July 3 BBC article about the semifinal game between the USWNT and England commented on how popular the U.S. women’s team is. Reporter Lauren Turner notes how crowds gathered to watch the game and could focus on little else.
“The women’s game is so much more popular,” Ridley Williams, a fan, told BBC. “And it’s wonderful also for young girls to be able to look up to someone who looks like you.
“It’s great to support this team, but we need to support them financially too,” Williams continued.
The BBC article noted many of the people Turner interviewed admitted they wouldn’t have turned up if the U.S. men’s team was playing.
“It’s time for the world to recognize not just the degree of skill, but the degree of soul women’s teams are bringing to the game — and elevate it to beyond where it’s been,” Sarah Parkinson, a fan, told BBC.