Every four years the world collectively takes a break and turns their attention to the Women's World Cup. I’m going to say that it is safe to assume that it is the most watched women’s sporting event by a large margin. Probably followed closely by those same teams competing against each other for Olympic Gold every four years. Luckily for all of us the way they alternate them we get the joy of watching the global elites compete against each other every two years between the two events.
Unfortunately for me this year I missed all, but one match for the USA Team. Luckily it was the final match of the whole World Cup and when it ended the USA Women had won their fourth World Cup title. A feat even more impressive when you learn that there have only been eight FIFA Women’s World Cups.
I began following our team in the lead up to their first Olympic Gold Medal during the 1996 Atlanta games. It was exhilarating to watch our women compete and win on the world stage. More then that for a fourteen year old girl it was impressive to see how many people were glued to a woman’s sporting event. It wasn’t something that happened often.
Then came 1999, once again the women were competing on home soil for the World Cup. All of the attention the sport had received in the county after the gold medal, and that which the players had continued to get during the three years between games, led organizers to plan matches at some of the biggest stadiums in the country. Many of the players became very nervous worrying that they would not be able to fill all of the seats. Boy were they wrong, between all of the international visitors and home team fans there was hardly an empty seat to be found during the tournament.
The whole event was quite remarkable and one few people would ever forget as the USA team stormed through their bracket, marching towards their eventual showdown with the team from China.
No one will forget the game ending with penalty kicks and Brandy Chastain ripping off her shirt celebrating in her sports bra, just like the male players do. I remember it just seemed like part of the normal celebration you see in a soccer game, lots of people completely freaked out.
That is one of the clear discrepancies between the men's and women's teams. Another one, well truthfully the women are just more successful, they are a higher caliber of team then our men are. Though the FIFA Men’s World Cup stretches much farther back then the women’s tournament, we have never won it. In fact, many years we do not even qualify for the biggest event in their sport. The best finish was third place in 1930. The biggest discrepancy though is the pay, even though the woman’s game is watched much more closely then the men’s game in the USA, the men receive far superior pay to their counterparts. This isn’t just a problem in women’s sports, it stretches across all industries and throughout our nation. In fact, Idaho has one of the largest margins of pay difference between the genders in the whole nation.
These women’s pay, everyone’s pay, should be based on experience level and the quality of their experience.
As a little girl who looked up to their predecessors, awed getting to see how powerful women could be for the first time I truly hope the USWNT finally get what they deserve and begin getting paid what they are owed. It’s been a long time coming. It’s is actually well over due.