Victory for female athletes

Photographer and soccer player Maddy Smith ’22 writes about what the recent U.S. World Cup win means for female athletes and the larger conversation of equal pay.

Maddy Smith , Visual Editor and Feature Editor

If you’ve been following sports news, you know that the FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup matches began in France on June 6 and the match for world champion took place Sunday, July 7. In that game, the United States and the Netherlands stepped onto the field, and the U.S women’s national team stepped off as world champions. This was a victory not only for the players but also for female athletes watching from their living rooms. 

Let me give you a little history: in 1991, FIFA announced that they would be holding a World Cup – this time for women. The Men’s World Cup was founded in 1930, and the Cup has been hosted 21 times. The U.S. men’s national soccer team haven’t won once. There have been eight Women’s World Cups, and the United States has already won four total times and are now two-time reigning champions. In 2015, the Women’s World Cup made nearly $73 million in revenue compared to the Men’s more than $5.3 billion in the 2018 Moscow Cup. The players on the Men’s World Cup teams make millions more than the players on the Women’s World Cup teams because of the difference in popularity. 

Historically, the Men’s Cup has been more popular as men’s athletics is more popular globally. Here’s why the U.S. women’s national team’s victory is a victory for all female athletes: the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup final, according to a FOX Sports report, brought FOX alone over 14 million viewers. This out-did the 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup’s final match viewer count by +22%. Household ratings for the entire 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France were up 11% over the entire 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. This means that women’s soccer is gaining in popularity. 

My gender should not determine my value, what should matter is my skill, effort, and attitude in the sport I am playing.”

— Maddy Smith

U.S women’s national soccer team brings in more revenue than the men’s national soccer team. This is because the women’s team wins more games than the men’s team on a seasonal average. Despite the higher level of popularity and success, the players on the women’s team get paid less than their male counterparts on the men’s team. The U.S. women’s national soccer team’s global victory in the midst of a battle against the United States Soccer Federation for equal pay is a step toward winning the fight, and making it increasingly more difficult to defend the inequality. Why should women who win more get paid less than men who don’t win as much, have no World Cup titles, and have not even consistently qualified for the World Cup? 

Megan Rapinoe is changing the conversation from whether the women’s team is worth more to what do we do to fix it. I agree 100%. The Women’s World Cup victory on the field and in the ratings is another stepping stone to respect for female athletes. 

I am a female athlete and am worth no less than a male athlete. My gender should not determine my value, what should matter is my skill, effort, and attitude in the sport I am playing. The victory of the U.S women’s national soccer team in the 2019 World Cup has brought to light issues with unfair treatment in athletics and fueled the spreading wildfire of women fighting for equal treatment. The world will finally realize with female athletes speaking out publicly and the media finally capturing the discrimination, losses, and victories, that an athletes’ worth is not determined by their gender.