By all accounts, Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final was the most successful ever in terms of drawing record viewership.
Sunday’s victory for the United States surely will catapult women’s soccer to new levels.
Even better, it should help level the playing field with that of the men’s team.
This year’s matches were played on artificial turf and the prize money is a fraction of what the men’s league garners.
As for the latter, FIFA, the international association of football, needs to up the ante for the women’s tournament and big name sponsors should be encouraged to jump on the band- wagon as the women’s division continues to grow in popularity.
This year’s prize money amounts to $15 million. Last year’s men’s competition in Brazil awarded $500 million in prizes.
The other real discrepancy is that this year’s women’s tournament was played on artificial turf, despite months-long protests from players, coaches and other supporters.
The difference of the two playing surfaces is significant. Real grass yields and provides more of a cushion. The plastic surface also can heat up to more than 120 degrees on a hot, sunny day. Buried in the fake turf are small rubber pebbles that can fly up into players’ eyes. The surface also makes the ball bounce differently from real grass.
To date, no World Cup has ever been held on artificial turf. That this year’s was, should be an embarrassment to Canadian officials as well as FIFA.
U.S. WOMEN’S soccer has grown in fits and starts. After making the World Cup finals against Japan in 2011, it folded, the second time since 1999.
It hasn’t helped that FIFA has been almost negligent in its support of the women’s division.
Hopefully, the bribery and graft scandal that has beset FIFA and forced the resignation of its top administrators will change up the division of labor, including the percentage of staff dedicated to the women’s division.
Hope for a better future lies in how other women’s sports have gained solid footing over the last several decades. Women’s tennis, for example, is now a well-paid profession thanks to the ground-breaking efforts of Billie Jean King in the early 1970s.
When the Women’s Tennis Association began in 1973, major tournament winnings for females were a paltry $15,000. Today, female tennis players compete for $129 million in prize money per year — almost in league with the men.
The National Women’s Soccer League, organized in 2013, needs to capitalize on the momentum it has gained from its success in this year’s World Cup and take it to the next level in terms of marketing, games and most importantly, compensation.
— Susan Lynn
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