This last month, women’s soccer jumped to the forefront of American sports and entertainment media, thanks to the US Women’s National Team winning at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. This makes the USWNT fourth World Cup title after also winning at the last World Cup in 2015.
In addition to their highly successful career, the USWNT has also been in the news after filing a gender discrimination lawsuit this year in March. The lawsuit alleges that the United States Soccer Federation who employs both the women’s and men’s teams have consistently paid the female players less money than their male counterparts “even though their performance has been superior to that of the male players.” The suit was brought to court by 28 players after years of requesting equal pay and treatment for their team.
There is a difference in how the men’s and women’s teams are paid, with women receiving a base salary plus bonuses and men receiving only bonuses. Though, the USWNT’s lawsuit alleges that if both teams performed at the same level and winning every possible game outside of World Cup competitions that a female player could only earn 38% of the compensation that a male player could earn. Their lawsuit claims that the US Soccer Federation “has no legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for this gross disparity in pay.” Financially, the USWNT are seeking pay to their male counterparts as well as back pay damages, though they are also serving as a voice for women seeking equality in the general workforce.
In June, the Wall Street Journal reported that the USWNT and the US Soccer Federation have agreed to mediation, but there have not been any updates in the lawsuit’s progression since then. Though it is clear that the American population stand behind the USWNT as their soccer jersey was the highest selling of either team for a single season by Nike. The World Cup final was also the most-watched soccer event since the last women’s cup final in 2015.
The USWNT have risen to mass popularity across the internet thanks to celebrity support and some players becoming celebrities themselves. For example, Megan Rapinoe, the team’s co-captain, quickly became a household name after openly criticizing President Trump and appearing on news channels with her bright purple hair. Rapinoe said in January that the USWNT would not be going to the White House if they won the World Cup and has kneeled during the National Anthem since Colin Kaepernick began the protest in 2016. In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, Rapinoe said, directed at President Trump, “Your message is excluding people. You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of color, you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you.” Rapinoe is a member of the LGBTQ community as an out lesbian as well as other members of the USWNT. Rapinoe and the rest of the team have expressed their interests in visiting with other lawmakers in Washington to enact change and promote diversity.
It is safe to say that America has largely been enamored with the USWNT whether it is their political activism, strong representation for women and the LGBTQ community, or for simply being the world’s best women’s soccer team.