Every four years, women’s soccer takes its spot at center stage. For one month, eyes around the world fixate on players like Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Sam Kerr and Christine Sinclair as they compete for their respective countries.
However, as the 2019 Women’s World Cup gets underway in France, it’s important to note that this year’s World Cup has more at stake than just a trophy. For the past two decades, the women’s soccer world has been on the rise, and with the competition at its highest level yet, the time to start appreciating the game and the women playing is now.
Men’s soccer has consistently been treated as a higher entity compared to the women’s game throughout history. It’s been in every Summer Olympics since 1900 — excluding 1932 — while the women’s tournament wasn’t introduced until nearly a century later in 1996. The men have had the opportunity to hoist the most coveted trophy at the World Cup in soccer since 1930, but the women have only been competing for it since 1991.
Since its creation in 1991, the Women’s World Cup has seen five different champions, with the United States leading the way with three titles. During the last 28 years and seven tournaments, the skill and dominance of women’s soccer around the world has grown.
The tournament started with just 12 teams battling it out for the title but now, 24 countries are competing. Between the last two World Cups, 12 nations have made their first appearance in the tournament, highlighting the growing importance of the game around the world.
The growth of the women’s game is inevitable with players like Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach. It’s players like Wambach who helped inspire groups of young girls to go outside and play soccer and realize it could be a profession. When Wambach retired from soccer in 2015, she walked off the field as the all-time leading scorer in FIFA history — for both men and women.
While the 2019 World Cup will be fun to watch because of the stars that’ll take the field, there’s so much more to pay attention to this year. These athletes are starting to use their platforms as national role models to speak out against the injustice toward female athletes and women’s sports as a whole.
The group speaking out the most against inequality is the team leading the world — the United States Women’s National Team. The winners of three World Cups and four Olympic gold medals have started calling out U.S. Soccer on the disparity of treatment between the women's and men’s teams.
In a lawsuit filed by 28 members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer program, it’s argued that if athletes on each team were to play 20 exhibition games, the men would make an average of $263,320 while the women could only make a maximum of $99,000. There’s no denying that the Men’s World Cup brings in more revenue than the Women’s World Cup. In 2014, FIFA made $4.8 billion from the World Cup but made only made $73 million off the 2015 Women’s World Cup. But when you look at the United States in particular, when do you say enough is enough?
The USWNT has consistently outshined the USMNT throughout the last several decades. The women have never finished lower than third place at the World Cup while the men have never finished higher than third — and that happened in 1930. Let’s not forget about the USMNT not even qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. At the U.S. level, it’s time to stop looking at revenue as a way to determine pay and start looking at on-field performance.
U.S. Soccer receives money from FIFA depending on how its teams fare in the World Cup. When the men advanced past the group stages in 2014, U.S. Soccer was given $9 million. However, when the women won the whole thing in 2015, the U.S. received $2 million. That money is determined by how much money each World Cup brings in, but the federation can do whatever it pleases with the money. U.S. Soccer should reward the women’s team for its success by evenly distributing the money it receives from FIFA.
When it comes to viewership in the United States, it’s the women who lead the men — much like they do when looking at success. The 2015 Women’s World Cup final between the United States and Japan is still the most-viewed soccer game in America regardless of gender.
Since the U.S. women have started speaking up for more equality between them and their male counterparts, other nation’s teams have started to follow their lead. England forward Toni Duggan said in an interview with Reuters that the U.S. women deserve equal pay, and when the English women end up winning World Cup title, she and her teammates would start to argue for equal pay themselves.
The 2019 Women’s World Cup is filled with talent from both newcomers and veterans. This year’s tournament is easily going to be the best one yet, but it’s also going to be the most important.
It’s no longer just about soccer for these women — it’s about equality and it’s time for the world to listen.
Contact Catie Harper at email@example.com. For more soccer coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.