Twenty years ago, as interest began to swell for the 1999 Women's World Cup, I suggested to an editor that it would be a good idea to cover the late-round games. His response: Nobody cares about women's soccer.
So, forgive me for getting misty-eyed on Sunday afternoon, as I watched travelers at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport gather around TV sets and cheer as the 2019 U.S. team hoisted a fourth World Cup trophy.
The Fox ratings for the final are still coming in, but the estimated TV audience is around 19 million. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, 5.5 million people watched the game, which means 88 percent of the TVs there were tuned in.
In other words, lots of people care about women's soccer these days. And it wasn't just the soccer--brilliant as it was--that captivated fans during this World Cup. It was the women's confidence, grit, and personality that left an impression.
These women don't sit back quietly and hope for a raise like women of my generation have done our entire careers. They demand a raise. Heck, they are suing their bosses for a raise.
As the American women lifted their trophy, tens of thousands of fans in the stadium chanted: "Equal pay! Equal pay!"
The pay issue is complicated because prize money is related to revenue generated, and the Women's World Cup is still far behind the men's tournament. The 2019 Women's World Cup will reportedly generate over $100 million and pay $30 million in prize money. The 2018 men's Cup made over $5 billion and paid $400 million in prize money.
But when it comes to national-team salaries, bonuses, sponsorship, promotion, and training costs, the U.S. women have every right to demand the same as (if not more than) the U.S. men, who failed to qualify for the last World Cup.
Before we put this fantastic event in our rear-view mirrors, let's recap some winners and losers.
• Winner: Dutch, Jamaican, and Brazilian fans. They bring fun everywhere they go.
• Loser: FIFA, for scheduling the finals of the men's Copa America and Gold Cup the same day as the Women's World Cup final. Let the women have one day to themselves every four years.
• Winner: Female coaches. It was nice to see both finalists being coached by women, Jill Ellis (USA) and Sarina Wiegman (Netherlands).
• Loser: French organizers, who faced criticism for failing to promote the tournament enough.
• Winner: Chilean goalkeeper Christiane Endler, who proved great players can be found on underfunded teams.
• Winner/Loser: Video Assistant Referee (VAR). Depends whom you ask.
• Biggest winner: Women. Everywhere.
Editorial on 07/10/2019
Print Headline: Winners, losers, equal pay