I was listening to a spirited debate yesterday between two Sports Talk Radio Hosts whose expertise were in baseball and football, respectively. Instead of being dismissive of women's soccer, their analysis was actually fairly insightful, which was a victory in upon itself.
They debated whether the USWNT deserved equal pay versus the men and one of the hosts pointed out that since 2015 the women have actually out-EARNED the men, so of course they deserve equal pay. I love the USWNT, but it's not as simple as that.
Let's just lay out some facts, shall we.
1. The USWNT is the best team in the world in WOMEN'S SOCCER
(if not the best, in the top 2.)
Are they better than the Portland Thorns, the best team in the NWSL? Yes.
Are they better than Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, arguably the best top level club in Europe with the amazing Ada Hegerberg guiding the team? Um... yes. (Notice I had to think about it.)
Are they better than the Melbourne Victory in Australia's W-League? Absolutely.
And, to my knowledge, the USWNT pays better than other National Teams, but some players on F.C. Lyon are the highest paid players in the world. Unfortunately some Women in soccer get paid zero. A few weeks ago we wrote an article about Vanina Correa and I was stunned to find out that in 2016 the Argentinian Women's National Team dissolved. Between 2008 and 2014, the Jamaican Women's National Team didn't exist (and had to be saved by Bob Marley's Daughter.) Other players, from Thailand, South Africa, and Nigeria, say they make less than $5,000 annually from soccer.
The aforementioned Ada Hegerberg wouldn't play for Norway even though the Men's Team took a pay cut so the women could have equal pay. She was upset about the Women's Soccer infrastructure in Norway. This from WBUR in America, "but for now, Hegerberg is perfectly content to focus on her club soccer in France."
Uh-oh. Ms. Hegerberg thinks she's playing club soccer. She is playing WOMEN's club soccer. Which leads us into our second fact.
2. The USWNT is, about, the 3,000th best team in the world in SOCCER.
If the USWNT played Manchester City in soccer, they would lose 25-0. Now that game would never happen in real life because the men would take it easy on the ladies and Pep Guardiola would put in players from the end of his bench, but the Ada Hegerberg's of the world think they are amongst the best in the world in soccer.
Are the USWNT team better than the WORST team in the English Premier League? No.
Are the USWNT team better than the WORST team in Serie A? No.
Are the USWNT team better than the WORST team in Bundasliga? No.
Are the USWNT team better than the WORST team in La Liga? No.
Are the USWNT team better than the WORST team in the Ukranian Premier League? No.
Are the USWNT team better than the WORST team in Evedivisie? No.
Are the USWNT team better than the WORST team in Liga MX? No.
Are the USWNT team better than the WORST team in Argentine Primera? No.
Are the USWNT team better than the WORST team in Brasileirao? No.
Are the USWNT team better than the WORST team in MLS? No.
We just named over 200 teams in the top tiers of men's soccer.
Let's go down the pyramid in the English Premier League.
Are the USWNT team better than the WORST team in the English League Championship? No.
Are the USWNT team better than the WORST team in English League One? No.
Are the USWNT team better than the WORST team in English League Two? Umm. Not sure.
In the United States, if the Women played their hardest, and the Men played their hardest, I think that the USWNT is about as good as an average NCAA Men's team, a team like Fordham.
Or, looking at it another way, soccer nuts have ranked the top 2,500 first tier club teams in the entire world.
Could the USWNT team beat the St. Ann's Rangers from Trinidad and Tobago? No comment.
The USWNT is already one of the highest paid teams in all of WOMEN'S SOCCER. They are awesome and dominate their sport. If you watch closely, they are fundamentally sound and they have some amazing precision passing.
You know what other league is known for good fundamentals and precision passing? The WNBA. If it wasn't heavily subsidized by the NBA, the WNBA may or may not even exist, but they certainly wouldn't exist in its current form. There is no entity heavily subsidizing the NWSL. The quality of America's Women's National Basketball Team is about that of a good Division III men's basketball team and you don't hear people screaming Diana Taurasi needs to be paid like LeBron James. (Or do you?)
3. The USA loves a winner.
Let's take tennis for example. No one in America is talking about Men's Tennis. Only one of the top 25 mens players is American. When is the last time you heard casual talk about #13 ranked John Isner?
The women, though, Serena Williams was the best player in the world for nearly a decade and would probably be ranked higher today if she didn't take a break to start a family. Serena (and to a lesser extent, Venus) are responsible for the popularity of Women's Tennis in America today because they won.
I'm a fan of Women's Soccer, just like I'm a fan of Indoor Soccer, College Soccer, and High School Soccer. With the USMNT currently ranked 30th in the world, the casual fans are ignoring the team and the hardcore fans are mad at the team. With the Women winning nearly every time they step on the field, the casual fans love the USWNT, while the hardcore fans realize that the women are very good in their specific niche of soccer.
If you paid the women based on their being at the top of their profession, they definitely deserve their money. If you paid the women based off of the quality of soccer that they play versus all nationalities, sexes, and skill levels, technically that would mean that it's time for the women's team to take a pay cut, not have equal pay. (Or at least equal pay to Fordham Soccer.)
Megan Rapinoe is NOT buying what I am selling.
#4 USWNT are Beautiful.
Some of the marketing aspects surrounding the USWNT are two-fold. They are winners and they are beautiful. You can't market an average forward on FC Cincinnati on the national level, but corporate tie-ins for the USWNT are natural.
Player: Corporate Partnership Promos
Ashlyn Harris: Umbro
Adrianna Franch: Visa
Becky Sauerbrunn: Budweiser & Visa
Kelley O'Hara: Milk Companies
Abby Dahlkemper: Visa
Ali Krieger: Shaw Sports Turf
Crystal Dunn: Nike
Sam Mewis: Volkswagon
Morgan Brian: Read about the dark side of Corporate Sponsorship and the USWNT at SI.
Julie Ertz: Zebra Technologies
Lindsey Horan: Adidas
Rose Lavelle: Visa
Allie Long: Volkswagon
Mallory Pugh: Nike
Carli Lloyd: Visa
Alex Morgan: Nike, Coke & Beats by Dre
Megan Rapinoe: Nike & Mendi
(You should really click on the Mendi link. I think you'll be surprised.
Tobin Heath: Nike
Jessica McDonald: Visa
Christen Press: You see that picture above? That's who corporate sponsors should be lining up behind. She tells me to drink Coke instead of Pepsi, I'm doing that. If she says use Discover instead of Visa, I'm doing that. If she says watch Hulu instead of Netflix, I'm doing that......
Let me interrupt my own article. As I type away, someone across the country is 'solving' the pay iniquities of Women's Soccer. Jessica Luther at the Huffington Post says: It's Time for Women's Soccer to Break Away from FIFA.
As corrupt and horrible as FIFA is, I contend that Women's Soccer would actually lose money by breaking away because the current infrastructure would be gone.
But you know what? What do I know. Go ahead and listen to Amateur Entrepreneur Luther and break away, let's and see what happens.
(Hint: Within 1 year, no more Women's Soccer.)
Editor's Note: July 8, 2019
I stand by everything I said in my article, but I want to be clear that I, too, am glad that Lesbians won the Women's World Cup.
Ali Krieger is beautiful: She's not interested in me because she's a lesbian.
Alex Morgan is beautiful: She's not interested in me because I'm a tub of goo.
Again, the USWNT is the best team in the World in WOMEN'S SOCCER. Congratulations!