ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
With the FIFA Women’s World Cup just a couple of months away from kicking off, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has started their fight for victory early, though it is not on the soccer pitch. Instead, it is in the court of law, as all 28 current members of the Women’s National Team sued the U.S. Soccer Federations for gender discrimination. The suit was filed on March 8, International Women’s Day. It started with five players after the 2015 World Cup; Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, Carli Lloyd, and former goalkeeper Hope Solo. It later expanded to all 28 U.S. National Team players. This suit was filed through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It was not until this last month that the players received the right to sue from EEOC. The suit argued that they play “on the same size field; use the same size ball; have the same duration of matches and play by the same rules.” Several people argued that the men play in a more competitive market, as many men’s teams have star players who play for some of the best clubs in the world, which makes a difference in the sport.
The U.S. National Team players had originally struck a collective bargaining agreement with the U.S. Federation in 2017, which would run on to 2020. The players received raises in base pay and bonuses, better provisions for travel and accommodations, and increased per day allowance. It also gave the players some control of certain licensing and marketing rights. This, however, did not stop the male players from earning more than their female counterparts. U.S. Captain Carly Lloyd spoke about the difference in what she received to spend when she traveled internationally before the agreement. “I get $60 a day for expenses. [Former men’s captain] Michael Bradley gets $75. Maybe they figure that women are smaller and thus eat less,” she said.
The problems also came after the U.S. Men’s National Team failed to make it past the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil because they lost to a strong Belgium Men’s National Team in extra time. The men received a team bonus of $5.38 million. In 2018, the U.S. Men’s National Team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, even after many saw their qualification stage as a guarantee for the U.S. team, which is filled with great talent compared to the other countries in their region. The U.S. Women’s Team, on the other hand, won their World Cup in 2015, as they thrashed the previous champions, Japan, with a score of 5 – 2 in the final. They received $1.73 million in team bonuses after their success. In addition to such a small amount of bonuses in 2015 after winning the World Cup, the U.S. Women’s Team received only $2 million in winnings. This was greatly overshadowed by the recent winners of the 2018 World Cup in Russia – France, who received $38 million in winnings. FIFA recently announced that they will substantially increase the winnings for the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Another company to announce the increase of winning bonuses was Adidas. They said that the winning athletes who are sponsored by Adidas would receive the same amount of winnings as their male counterparts who are also sponsored by Adidas.
The increasing popularity of women’s soccer also seems to be an increasing factor in these changes. In the past month, Women’s Club Soccer has become quite popular, and some games have seen sold-out crowds. Two of the more important games came from some European soccer giants; recently, Atletico Madrid of Spain set a world attendance record for a women’s match between two club sides when 60,739 people attended a league match against title rivals, Barcelona. Another came from Italian giants Juventus, who played a league match against rivals Florentina. Not only was the game sold out in the same stadium where the men play, but it was the first time the women’s team played in the stadium. The number of tickets sold was 39,000, and the total attendance was 39,027 people. Previous to this, the record for spectators at a women’s game was 14,000. This recent boom shows that the game has created a hype for women in the past years – not only in the U.S., but also in Europe. In the 2015 World Cup, 750 million tuned in to watch, setting a record for the tournament.
Whether it is because of the upcoming World Cup in France this year or just an expanding love for the world’s game from all people, it can be said that no matter the gender playing, true fans of the sport will always be there to support the country or club they love. In return, the players will create unity in a city or even a country.