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On Sunday, July 7, the U.S. women’s national team beat the Netherlands 2-0 in Décines-Charpieu, France to capture its fourth World Cup title. Since losing the final to Japan in 2011, the Americans have shown their dominance over the rest of the world. The team has not lost a single game in the tournament since then and this year beat two of the top five teams in the world on its way to another star.
Coming into the tournament, the U.S. was placed in Group F alongside Sweden, Chile and Thailand. In its first match in Reims, France, the team put together a historic beatdown on Thailand, winning 13-0. That was the largest winning margin ever in a Women’s World Cup game and had seven different scorers, another WWC record. Forward Alex Morgan, playing in her third World Cup, scored a record-tying five goals and led the way.
In their second group stage game, the Americans faced an overmatched Chile team and won the game by a final score of 3-0. Carli Lloyd scored a brace and Julie Ertz added another as all goals were scored in the first 35 minutes of the game.
The toughest test of the group came in their last group stage game against Sweden, ranked ninth in the world. After an early goal by Lindsey Horan in the third minute, the two teams battled until an own goal by Swedish defender Jonna Andersson in the 50th minute gave the USWNT a cushion to win the game 2-0.
After a perfect group stage that saw the Americans with a +18 goal difference, they advanced to the Round of 16 to take on Spain, ranked 13th. After only seven minutes, a Megan Rapinoe penalty put the US in the lead but that was short-lived, as Spain midfielder Jennifer Hermoso tied it just two minutes later. From then on, the game went back and forth until, in the 75th minute, a controversial penalty in favor of the U.S. was called and Rapinoe struck again, giving the team the lead and eventual win.
The U.S.’s quarterfinal match looked to be even tougher, as they were slated to play the host nation of France in Paris. France went into the game ranked fourth in the world and was undefeated in the tournament so far.
The USWNT struck quick again, as Rapinoe scored in the fifth minute, giving the team the lead, and scored again in the 65th minute to make it 2-0. A late goal by France put pressure on the Americans, but they held on to win it and advance to the semifinals. The victory did not come without controversy, as a probable handball inside the penalty box against the U.S. was not called. It appeared that the ball hit defender Kelley O’Hara in the arm and, had it been called, that would have likely set up France for the tie. Regardless, it was not reviewed and the game ended, setting up a U.S.-England semifinal.
In order to get into their third straight Women’s World Cup Final, the U.S. had to face an England team that had rolled into the match, winning both knockout stage games by a score of 3-0. Star forward Megan Rapinoe was a surprising drop from the lineup, but it was later revealed she was nursing a hamstring injury suffered against France.
The U.S.’s trend of scoring early continued as Rapinoe’s replacement Christen Press scored in the 10th minute. But nine minutes later, British star Ellen White scored her sixth goal in the World Cup and leveled the game at one. The U.S. responded as Alex Morgan’s 31st-minute header gave them the lead, and they never looked back.
The U.S.’s opponent in the final was a Netherlands team that came into the game having eliminated two favorites in Germany and Sweden. The Dutch team had a strong presence in goal in Sari van Veenendaal, who had only allowed three goals in six games and was a huge part of the team’s historic run to its first World Cup final appearance.
Van Veenendaal proved to be a difference maker as she sent away many shots that could have easily put the Dutch out of the game early. That held true until the 61st minute, when another controversial penalty in favor of the U.S. was called. Rapinoe, back from injury, calmly put it away and put the US in a prime position to capture another title. Shortly thereafter, a great individual play and powerful strike into the bottom right corner by Rose Lavelle gave the USWNT a comfortable lead that was never lost, leading to another world title. After the match, Megan Rapinoe was awarded the tournament’s Golden Boot and Golden Ball, solidifying her dominant World Cup performance.
A parade was held in New York City on July 10 to honor the team.
“Everyone’s is kind of asking what’s next and what we want to come of all this,” Rapinoe told the Associated Press. “It’s to stop having the conversation about equal pay, are we worth it, the investment piece. … It’s time to kind of sit down with everyone and really get to work.”
As the World Cup journey came to an end, the USWNT’s priority now switched to bigger things. In March, the USWNT filed a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF). They claimed that the federation had failed at promoting gender equality, highlighting the disparity in pay between the men’s and women’s national team. With yet another World Cup victory under their belts, the women have certainly made their voices heard. After all, they continue to win, whereas their male counterparts have struggled mightily, prompting them to ask even more questions in their quest for equal pay.
For starters, the bonus the winning team received for the Women’s World Cup was about $4 million. This sum pales in comparison to the $38 million last year’s World Cup-winning France team received. While that disparity has more to do with the World Cup’s governing body, FIFA, than anything else, the main problem between the USSF and USWNT is one that is well known. Between 2016 and 2018, the USWNT accumulated more revenue for the federation than the men did. That fact alongside the winning makes the solution seem simple: pay the women more. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it looks on the surface.
Both the men and women national team systems are under different collective bargaining agreements that are arranged differently. From games, to sponsorships and many other forms of revenue, both teams get their money in different ways. That makes this pay discrepancy much more complex. With this ongoing lawsuit, the current CBA will likely be looked at and changed if a resolution is made. But for now, the women’s team is still celebrating its title — and rightfully so. Bigger things await them as they continue another battle they refuse to lose.
Written by: Omar Navarro — firstname.lastname@example.org