The victory of the U.S. women in World Cup soccer could be just a bigger prelude to a larger victory, this one in court.
Not content to dominate world play in women’s soccer, the members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team are suing the U.S. Soccer Federation because they are paid less than the men’s team. The women’s team filed the gender-discrimination lawsuit back in March and is scheduled to enter mediation with the soccer federation after team members return from France, where the World Cup was played. The lawsuit alleges that women are paid far less than members of the men’s team, in some cases earning just 38 percent of pay per game.
Yet the U.S. women’s team has four World Cup titles to zero for the men. The women’s team has four Olympic gold medals, too. They are a dynasty, but one in a world where other countries are beginning to invest in women’s soccer. Victories are tougher, as World Cup play showed. Unless the U.S. federation ups its game, the dominance that has been so inspiring to watch — at least for soccer fans in the United States — will likely begin to fade.
On the world level, too, pay for women’s soccer as compared to the men’s game is unequal — a standard that is excused because of greater global interest in the men’s game. Still, nearly 1 billion people watched the women’s World Cup in 2019, proving that women’s soccer is a growth market and that FIFA, soccer’s governing body, needs to make its own pay adjustments. In 2019, FIFA will pay the champion U.S. women’s team just $30 million for winning. That’s compared to the $440 million the next men’s champion will take home.
In the Washington Post, veteran sports journalist Sally Jenkins paid tribute to this tough women’s team — star co-captain Megan Rapinoe even had time to annoy President Donald Trump in the march to the championship by declaring she would not visit the White House after a championship. The president, as is his habit, could not ignore Rapinoe, replying via Twitter that, “I am a big fan of the American Team, and Women’s Soccer, but Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!” He went on to invite the team, win or lose, but whether that invitation will be issued more formally remains to be seen.
Rapinoe did, however, finish the job — leading her team to the championship, winning the Golden Boot for most goals scored and the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. Now the equal pay lawsuit must be completed.
Jenkins described what a victory will mean: “Never again should this most magnificent of American teams be shortchanged by the so-called power brokers in suits, the players treated as some kind of subsidized junior varsity who should be thankful for what they get. …”
The U.S. Soccer Federation can do the right thing by improving the pay structure and making the investments that will keep the U.S. women’s game at the top of the world. That would be the perfect ending to this championship season.