Opinion: We Have Successful Soccer in the US, It’s Just Not Played by Men

USWNT celebrates a goal at the 2012 Olympic final in Wembley Stadium, London. It was their 4th Olympic title, while the Men's haven't qualified to the last two tournaments. Photo by Joel Solomon, licensed via CC 2.0.

By AnnMarie Barenchi 
BU News Service

If you’re still mourning the U.S. men’s national soccer team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, it’s time to dry your tears. Your red, white and blue face paint has not gone to waste just yet. There’s still hope for a win. We just need to pay attention.

It’s time to face the facts. The USMNT isn’t bringing home a medal anytime soon. We need to shift our attention to a different, better group of players that works hard and wins tournaments, despite playing on dangerous turf fields and earning lesser pay.

That team is the U.S. women’s national team.

After the USMNT’s loss to Trinidad and Tobago last Tuesday, many called it shocking or unthinkable. But if you’ve been paying attention, this failure is not much of a surprise nor is it out of character.

Looking back, they had a 9 tournament streak from 1954 to 1986 during which they did not qualify for a single World Cup. Beyond that, they have never won the tournament and haven’t earned a medal—first, second or third place—since the very first World Cup in 1930. In that year, they got third.

Knowing this, is it really that surprising the team didn’t qualify this year? Beyond that, did we ever expect them to win if they did?

Unlike the men’s team, the USWNT has been a consistent success. They have qualified for every single FIFA Women’s World Cup since the tournament began in 1991 and earned a medal at every one.

They have won the tournament three times in the seven times the competition has been held.

After watching the aftermath of the men’s failure to qualify, one thing became clear: we are focusing on the wrong team. We need a team that wins. We need the USWNT.

And they need us, too. In March 2016, the pay gap between the U.S. teams became national news when five top female players filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming that to be paid less than their male counterparts.

The charge—filed by Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn—pointed out that the men made more per game, earned higher bonuses per win and received $750 more per sponsor appearance.

“The fact that women are being mistreated financially is, sadly, not a breaking news story,” Lloyd wrote in a New York Times essay last April.

“We can’t right all the world’s wrongs, but we’re totally determined to right the unfairness in our field, not just for ourselves but for the young players coming up behind us and for our soccer sisters around the world,” she wrote.

Some tried to argue that the discrepancies were due to different pay structures between the two U.S. teams. The women were paid a salary of $72,000 while the men were simply paid for appearances, wins and sponsorships. Others said the men deserved to make more money because they brought in more revenue.

Still, these numbers did not add up, since the women’s team consistently won far more games. Additionally, after a dominant title run at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the USWNT far surpassed the men in terms of profit, according to data U.S. Soccer provided to the New York Times. U.S Soccer said it projects the women to do the same in the 2019 World Cup.

Ultimately, this cry for equality led to a new deal between U.S. Soccer Federation and the USWNT this April. As a result, the women were granted higher salaries and better per game bonuses. However, none of these gains were a guarantee of equal pay as U.S. Soccer continues to maintain different pay structures between the teams.

This fight to close the wage gap in soccer goes far beyond the U.S. and progress is starting to show. Norway made strides towards equality earlier this month when the country announced it will pay their national teams the same amount.

U.S. player Hope Solo took this as an opportunity to speak out again, tweeting “See @ussoccer. #Equality is possible, ethical, lawful and the right thing to do. #OYW2017.”

These discrepancies should not and cannot be ignored, especially in light of the USMNT’s failings last week.

But there’s more than just a gap in pay. There is a gap in attention and pride. Perhaps if American soccer fans paid more attention to these women as they continue to bring home medal after medal, U.S. soccer might compensate them the money they are deserved.

These are the players whose jerseys we should be wearing. It is at these games we should be cheering and giving body painted hugs to fellow fans after each goal. Our pride should be with this team.

Being a USWNT fan is exciting. The rush of seeing a ball hit the back of an opposing team’s net is undeniable. If you’re like me, you still feel the thrill of watching our women score four goals in the first 16 minutes at the 2015 World Cup finals. This team drives it home every time.

We need to stop crying over the unsurprising outcome of the men’s national team and give our devoted attention to the team that deserves it. To our girls gearing up for the next year’s women’s World Cup: we see you, we’re with you and let’s show them how it’s done.

1 Comment

  • Spot on! The USWNT has been my favorite team in the world since 2003, when I discovered them. A fantastic team, with an incredible work ethic and great team cohesion.

    Go USWNT!

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