For the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (WNT), the easy part — winning their fourth World Cup — is over.
The hard part — making the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and women’s soccer more popular — continues.
I shouldn’t say winning the World Cup was easy. The WNT had some close games against France and England in the knockout rounds. And the Netherlands was no pushover in the final.
And the WNT has already helped to make women’s soccer more popular. For example, Nike announced that the WNT jersey has been the biggest-selling jersey — men’s or women’s — on its website for a season.
In addition, the semifinal game between England and the United States drew record television audiences in each country.
Remember, the WNT sued the U.S. Soccer Federation claiming that members of the United States men’s national soccer team were paid more than members of the WNT. The WNT wants equal pay with the men. From what I saw of the recent World Cup games, maybe the women should make more than the men.
But even if they get more money from U.S. Soccer, the women will make less than male soccer players when they return to play in their regular league, the NWSL.
Like most sports, female soccer players are not paid as much as male athletes because the men’s games are more popular than the women’s. The average men’s Major League Soccer (MLS) game gets more than 20,000 fans, while an average NWSL game attracts about 5,500.
For better or worse, we live in an economy where the amount of money a person makes depends on how popular their product is. I write kids’ books. J.K. Rowling writes kids’ books. But Rowling makes more money — a lot more money — because her Harry Potter books are more popular than my sports books.
So what can we do to change things for the players on the WNT? Simple, support women’s soccer and the NWSL.
It shouldn’t be hard. The Washington Spirit, which plays at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, has two exciting young WNT stars on their roster — lightning-fast midfielder Rose Lavelle and forward Mallory Pugh.
The Spirit has six more home games including two games at the cool, new Audi Field in Washington. Many of those games will feature stars from the WNT. Take a look at this list:
Chicago Red Stars: Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher, Morgan Brian and Tierna Davidson;
Utah Royals: Christen Press, Kelley O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn;
Orlando Pride: Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris;
Seattle Reign FC: Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long;
North Carolina Courage: Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn and Samantha Mewis.
So go to the Spirit games, watch NWSL games on TV, buy a team shirt. It could help the female athletes of the NWSL get a pay raise. They deserve it.