Equality for Women’s Soccer

The United States Women’s Soccer Team has finally made progress by settling their class action lawsuit for equal pay

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The United States Women’s Soccer Team has finally made progress by settling their class action lawsuit for equal pay

Kennedy Jones, Editor in Chief

If you are a sports fan like me, then you are probably well aware of the comparisons of men and women’s sports. However, if you are not familiar with the world of sports, it is important to know there is a huge disrepency in the equality of male and female sports. To highlight this modern issue, I chose to focus on a sport that has seen major controversies in recent years around the equality of its athletes: soccer.

On February 22 2022, the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) settled their class action equal pay lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) for 24 million dollars. This historic settlement was a long-time coming for many players on the team who spent years advocating for equal pay based on their overwhelming resume of international championships and overall games won compared to the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT). To fully comprehend this monumental outcome for women’s soccer, you need to know how U.S. soccer reached this point.

On an international standpoint, men’s soccer is way more popular than women’s. One of the biggest international leagues being the English Premier League, which is basically England’s equivalent of American Football, is a huge part of the culture of soccer. The League is so popular that it is even broadcasted in the U.S., where even more fans contribute to 3 billion viewers. What many people do not know is that there is also a Women’s Premier League, but those teams do not get nearly the same amount of screen time and media coverage as the men’s league. The same goes for the U.S. Major League Soccer (MLS) as it is broadcasted frequently in the States, however I have never seen a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) game on my television.

This drastic inequality in media coverage may lie in the physiological facts that make the viewership of men’s soccer skyrocket. Men have anatomically larger lungs and therefore have a higher lung capacity, making it easier for male athletes to run longer distances and in turn, perform better on the field. Men are generally taller and can cover more of the field faster, making both offense and defense move quickly. These are just some of the many ways in which the male soccer players have advantage over female players. The tempo of the game moves faster, so fans are able to watch more scoring opportunities and goals.

More viewership of men’s soccer, also means more fame for the male players. There are several male soccer players who are household names not only in the U.S., but all around the world. Names like Cristiano Rolnaldo, Lionel Messi and Pele could be rattled off by even the most fair weather fans. While these players are the greatest in the world and have worked so hard to earn this honor and fame, it is interesting to think about how easily their platform may have been handed to them because of the amount of media coverage they are given because they are men.

Women athletes in general deserve just as much screen time and attention as male athletes. In particular, women’s soccer is just as exciting and impactful as men’s. The aggressiveness and overall skill that these professional female athletes possess is something you will struggle to find in men’s soccer. These women are tough and relentless; there have been many times when players get right back up after a rough tackle or continuing playing after drawing blood. Their drive is incredible, especially because you will rarely see that in men’s soccer.

The pay difference between male and female players is the main reason this argument is controversial. The minimum salary for NWSL players in 2021 was a minimum of $22,000 and a maximum of $52,000. Many of these female athletes had to find second jobs just to be able to make a living while also playing the sport they love. However, the average MLS player in 2021 made almost $400,000 for a single season. It all boils down to viewership because the more people who watch the games, the more money the athletes will receive. Since women’s soccer is not broadcasted as frequently as men’s, they are not earning nearly as much.

If women’s soccer was given more media coverage, it would do so much for the sport. In addition to giving the athletes the pay that they deserve, it would also give other female athletes and soccer players the opportunity to look up to and learn from the incredible women who are devoted to receiving the recognition they deserve. By giving female athletes the opportunity to have their sport broadcasted around the world, many young girls would be empowered to know that they can do anything that boys can do.

The misconceptions about women’s soccer are changing quickly, especially in the United States. In 2019, the USWNT made it all the way to the World Cup Championship and won, bringing in nearly 3 million more viewers than the Men’s World Cup the previous year. The USWNT has been dominating international soccer over the past few years by winning many more games than the men’s team. However, it was not until the women’s team settled their equal pay lawsuit that they finally acquired their well-earned attention.

It is obvious that women’s soccer is still developing globally and it will take time for the sport to be as impactful and recognized as men’s soccer. Hopefully, as more and more young soccer players grow up, they realize and respect the importance of gender equality not just in sports, but life in general, making the whole world more accepting.

If you would like to learn more about women’s soccer, click the links below!