It’s time to give U.S. women’s soccer what it deserves

One of the most common complaints once summer arrives is that there’s nothing to watch on TV.

The NBA and NHL seasons are over and now, the only thing to tune into is Major League Baseball and that season lasts for months. As much as I love baseball, I’ll admit that the games don’t truly start to matter until after the All-Star Game break.

However, the idea that there’s nothing to watch couldn’t be further from the truth. In case you didn’t read my column last week, the Michigan baseball team has been dominant at the College World Series and the Wolverines are now in the CWS Finals where they’ll play Vanderbilt in a best-of-3 series that starts Monday. Even if they don’t end up winning a national title, it still has been an entertaining ride and it should make you want to pay attention again next June.

However, there’s a much bigger event you could be checking out though and that’s the Women’s World Cup. Despite the common American way of thinking, soccer can be fun to watch and it’s one of the rare sports out there that the U.S. tends to dominate the competition. The World Cup has also left us with some truly memorable moments such as when the U.S. Women’s National Team’s Brandi Chastain scored on a penalty kick to win the title in 1999 for the Americans. The moment is also memorable because she also shed her jersey to celebrate.

There’s also Abby Wambach’s late header to tie a quarterfinal game against Brazil in 2011 and the U.S. eventually prevailed in a shootout. The U.S. isn’t the only team that’s had memorable success though as the Americans have also been upset in the tournament by Brazil in the semifinals back in 2007 and by Japan in the championship game in 2011.

What makes this year more intriguing is there’s some controversy involved. As my colleague Ryan Spitza pointed out in his recent column, the Americans were criticized for seemingly running up the score in their 13-0 opening win against Thailand and then for celebrating after the game was well in hand.

This was a really overblown situation. After all, it’s a major international event where goal differential plays a big role in who makes it out of the group round and when you score, you’re naturally going to want to celebrate. It’s like getting upset over bat flips after home runs in baseball or touchdown routines in football. If you get upset over something like that, that’s your problem.

That may be the controversy that’s garnered the most attention so far, but there’s other one has been brewing for years. It’s about money and the fact the U.S. women aren’t getting paid what they deserve.

It’s been well-documented that the women are significantly underpaid compared to the men’s team despite being significantly more successful. Those 13 goals against Thailand were more than the men’s team scored in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. The women have also won three World Cups and four Olympic gold medals. The last time I checked, the men haven’t even come close in either event.

Yet, the women still aren’t getting the respect or pay from the U.S. Soccer Federation. So they took matter into their own hands and sued the USSF over “purposeful gender discrimination.”

An article by The Atlantic states that sometimes the women only receive 38 percent of pay per game. The article also says that the U.S. women have made more money for the USSF, had more people tune into games and even played more games than the men. According to the lawsuit, referenced by The Atlantic, from 2013 to 2016, the women’s team could earn a maximum of $4,950 for any non-tournament victory, while the men earned an average of $13,166 for doing the exact same thing. MSNBC also pointed out that the lawsuit claims that if the women’s team and men’s team were to play 20 exhibition games per year, male players will have earned an average of $263,320, while female players would earn a maximum of $99,000. That’s a pretty glaring disparity.

The lawsuit also stats that the USSF uses fewer resources to hype up women’s games compared to men’s events. If the women needed even more ammunition for their lawsuit, The Atlantic says the filing talks about how even former president of Soccer United Marketing Kathy Carter said that the women’s team has not been marketed enough and has even been “taken… for granted.” SUM is the group used to market both programs by the USSF, so Carter definitely knows what’s been going on.

So why is this the case? A Washington Post article says that it’s due to the fact that there are fewer women involved in making decisions in the world of athletics. It states that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has never had a female president and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) didn’t have a female president for its first 100 years of operation. Soccer is one of the sports that continues to be stubborn in letting women into their powerful circle. FIFA didn’t have a woman on the executive committee until 2013 and the FIFA Council still has only six women compared among its 37 members.

In my experience so far, men have for the most part disregarded women’s sports, or at least not treated them as equal to men’s athletics. Things are starting to change, but it’s been a gradual process.

I didn’t grow up with any sisters, so I really didn’t pay attention to women’s sports as a kid. However, as I’ve grown up and covered more women’s sports, I’ve started to pay more attention to them. In my experience, sometimes women’s sports are more entertaining than men’s sports and when it comes to U.S. soccer, that’s painfully obvious.

Equal pay is been a big issue for quite some time and not just only in sports. However, in soccer, the problem is even more blatant, but there’s also a better chance that it could change as the USWNT and USSF agreed Friday to mediation to resolve the lawsuit.

If you’re on the fence on this issue with women’s soccer, or just athletics in general, let me ask you this. If you were wildly more successful at your job than other people in your profession, had won multiple awards for your abilities, and even brought in more attention and revenue for the people you work for, wouldn’t you want to be paid what you’re worth?

That’s what the U.S. women are striving to get and if they end up winning the World Cup, they’ll have even more evidence that they deserve equal pay, especially since the U.S. men didn’t even qualify for their World Cup tournament last year.

The women have done more than enough to get the money they deserve and it’s time they get what they should’ve gotten a long time ago.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.