Four Olympic gold medals, three World Cup championships, 1,762 goals and 444 winning matches. Despite all these outstanding accolades, this team has only existed since 1985. Its motto once was “the greatest team you’ve never heard of.” Since then, this team has built an empire: the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. Girls who wanted to be the Mia Hamm or Carli Lloyd of the 1999 World Cup Championship team have now won a World Cup beside Carli Lloyd herself.
During the final match of 2015, Lloyd led her team to victory with a hat trick against Japan, including a goal launched from almost 45 yards out. One could say it was a “shot heard round the world” when around 30 million people tuned in to watch U.S. dominate in Vancouver, Canada, in the final that was described in CBS News as “the highest rated soccer match in American history including games played by the U.S. men.” Nevertheless, the women’s team is still paid less.
On Oct. 10, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team fell short — 2-1 — against Trinidad and Tobago, losing its chance to play in the 2018 World Cup. It seems as if the men’s soccer program in the U.S. is struggling to rise and remain on top as a world soccer powerhouse. However, the women have done just that. Since the men’s team failed to qualify for the World Cup next year, what will happen to the popularity of soccer in the United States?
Across the world, men’s soccer is evidently “more popular and profitable than the women’s game,” according to CBS News. In 2015, after the U.S. women won the World Cup, the U.S. Soccer Federation was only awarded $2 million from Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the international soccer governing body. On the other hand, the German men’s team was awarded $35 million. In the U.S., soccer as a whole has been gaining popularity, but not equally for both men and women, despite the stark difference in success. Soccer fans across the nation continue to hold onto a sliver of hope that the men’s team will gain success, while neglecting the tremendous success of the women’s team. However, there may be a new era arising.
Players on the women’s team are fighting to be heard both on and off the field. Although they have been fighting the same war since they started their journey as a team, with the increasing influence of the feminist movement and the women’s team’s projected continued success, people might start to hear their calls for equality answered. The U.S. Soccer Federation claims “any differences in the compensation paid men and women players are driven by factors other than gender,” such as revenue and TV ratings. Furthermore, the “average audiences for [men’s games are] four times larger than the women.”
Despite the fact that the men’s soccer is more popular worldwide, its success in the U.S. is nothing compared to that of the women’s team. Unequal pay for these teams is completely unjust. How many Olympic gold medals and World Cup championships will it take for America to wake up and reward these exceptional players what they deserve?
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 7 print edition. Email Tori Bianco at sports @nyunews.com.