All hail the U.S. women’s soccer team, champions for the fourth time in the eight World Cups held since the women’s version of soccer’s ultimate event began in 1991.
The champions are deserving of something more tangible than cheers, however. They deserve a fair wage. In this case, “fair” would be defined as at least as much as the U.S. men’s team members are getting.
The women have sued the U.S. Soccer Federation over the issue, with the federation agreeing to enter mediation.
Here are the numbers: From 2013 through 2016, if the women’s national team played in 20 exhibition games, the players would have gotten an average of $99,000 each—total. If the men’s team had played that many games, the average would have been more than $263,000.
The U.S. women have ruled soccer. The men lost in the round of 16 in 2014 and didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup. U.S. men’s soccer has been historically hapless. While the women have won four of six gold medals in the Olympics since women’s soccer became an Olympic sport, the men haven’t won a soccer medal of any kind in more than a century.
For anyone arguing that the men deserve money because there’s more interest in men’s soccer, there’s this: The most watched soccer match in U.S. history (25.4 million viewers) was the U.S. women’s victory in the final against Japan four years ago. The interest is not so much in men’s or women’s soccer as in winning soccer.
A good case can be made for paying National Basketball Association players much more than their female professional counterparts. The interest gap is wide. That’s far from true in soccer.
Kudos to Title IX, too. American women have been excelling in a multitude of sports since the federal mandate became the law in 1972, legislating equal opportunity for females in sports.
In 1972, 84 of 400 U.S. athletes at the Munich Olympics were women. They won 23 medals. In 2016 at Rio, 293 women won 61 medals, along with shares of another five in mixed events. The men scored 55 medals. By themselves, the women would have tied for first in the number of gold medals at those Games.
While American girls and woman have thrived in international sports, and soccer in particular, other countries have lagged. Brazil, historically the most successful country in men’s soccer, banned women from playing between 1941 and 1979. England restricted women’s soccer from 1921 to 1971. In Germany, a ban lasted from 1955 to 1970. Credit Title IX with helping make the United States the world leader in women's sports.
And credit our women soccer players with conquering the world again with their 2-0 win over The Netherlands.
We hope that something more tangible than cheers will be present in their future paychecks.