Anyone who’s paid attention to soccer, sports, or news in general over the summer probably heard that the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) won the 2019 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Women’s World Cup. They were the obvious favorites of the tournament, but nobody could have predicted that they would walk away from it setting six world records and winning by the degree that they did. The USWNT set the record in the Women’s World Cup for the most goals scored in a tournament and in a single game and the most consecutive wins, to name a few. In other words, the US didn’t just win the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup; they dominated it. However, what the USWNT is doing off the field is arguably more impressive and momentous than what they have accomplished on the field. In March of 2019, three months before the World Cup, 28 members of the USWNT sued US Soccer, filing a gender discrimination lawsuit accusing the federation of not paying or treating them in a manner equivalent to what the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) receives. They argued that women receive inferior wages, working conditions, and investment by US Soccer compared to their male counterparts, the USMNT, despite their success and strong performance record.
Megan Rapinoe, the co-captain USWNT player, explained in an interview with The New York Times, “The lawsuit covers a lot. It’s about equal investment and equal care of both the men’s and women’s sides. Whether it’s youth team programs, marketing, the branding of the team, how they sell tickets, what they spend advertising money on, what they pay each side, what they spend on support staff, what they spend on coaching, what’s the travel budget — it’s all of that. The compensation is sort of the last big part.” As part of their legal argument, they pointed out that for losing in the Round of 16 in the World Cup, the US men’s team was paid three times the amount that the US women’s team received for winning the 2015 World Cup.
The debates have gone backwards and forwards between US Soccer and the USWNT about pay discrepancies, and it’s complicated, to say the least. TIME Magazine reported that US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro argued that the women’s team has actually been paid more than the men’s team. However, the Washington Post reported that if a men’s national team player and a women’s national team player each competed in 20 friendly games, the women’s national team player would earn $30,000 less than her male counterpart. US Soccer is not yet admitting the obvious pay discrepancies between the women’s and men’s national teams, and the USWNT is going to have to prove at trial, which was recently set for May 2020, that they are undercompensated and have worse working conditions solely due to their gender.
Regardless of the outcome, the USWNT has forever made their mark in history as fighters both on and off the field. Yes, they won 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but they have accomplished so much more. It is no question the USWNT has inspired women all over the world to stand up and speak out about gender discrimination.