The U.S. women’s national soccer team on Tuesday launch their bid for a fourth World Cup but beyond lifting the trophy the squad are also aiming for a cultural breakthrough for the game.
For decades, the enduring woes of women’s soccer, from low pay in relation to their male counterparts to lacklustre sponsorship endorsements, have shared a common source: the lack of a mass audience.
This year, however, the spotlight is on as France hosts the women’s World Cup.
FIFA, soccer’s governing body, forecasts one billion viewers will tune in globally, up a third on 2015’s tournament in Canada.
It is not a challenge that daunts the team.
“That’s been a huge goal of this team to continue to grow the sport.
“It’s exciting to be a part of the growth of the sport,” midfielder and 2015 World Cup winner Julie Ertz told reporters in Reims.
The U.S. are the most successful team in the sport. They have won three World Cups since the tournament began in 1991, four Olympic golds in the last six Games.
They have topped the FIFA rankings every year but one over the last 11 years.
They are therefore comfortable favourites against first Group F opponents Thailand.
The last time the two teams met, the United States won 9-0. Tougher rivals await, however, such as France bookmakers’ favourites for the tournament.
“I feel good, I feel confident,” starting goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher said. “Good to go.”
At an open training session, French children swarmed the U.S. players for autographs, calling out in thick accents the name of Alex Morgan, the clinical striker whose fearless style has made her one of the biggest names in the sport.
Yet despite their dominance, the American women receive a fraction of the prize-money won by the far less successful U.S. men’s team.
In 2015, the women’s team walked away with $2 million after becoming world champions, while a year earlier the men banked $9 million even after only reaching the last 16 of their respective World Cup in Brazil.
In a sign of growing recognition for the women’s game a result due in part to hard lobbying by the players the prize-money has doubled this year to $4 million.
There remains, though, a jarring gender discrepancy. France’s victorious men’s team walked away with $38 million in 2018.
“This tournament in itself is going to change things for women’s football, how we play and how the world sees us,” said midfielder Lindsey Horan, who plays for Portland Thorns FC.
Off the pitch, star-power sells, but the endorsement empire is male-dominated. Real Madrid and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo earns some $47 million annually from endorsements, according to Forbes. Morgan earns about $3 million a year from sponsorship deals.
Video game producer EA Sports only introduced women’s teams to its FIFA Soccer product in 2016, more than a decade after the launch. Ahead of the World Cup, it unveiled a free update featuring all 24 women’s teams competing in the tournament.
“The game is growing, and it’s evolving… A lot of other women’s teams around the world are trying to raise expectations and get more support.
“And I think that support is coming,” Naeher said
Senate Mulls Separate Budget For Police Commands
The President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, says the National Assembly is planning a separate budget for adequate funding...
Election Tribunal: Court Rules In Favour Of Governor Sani Bello
Justice Adama Jauro of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, has delivered its judgment in an interlocutory appeal filed by the...
Court Sentences Togolese Cook, Who Murdered Boss To Life Imprisonment
Justice Mobolanle Okikiolu-Ighile of the Lagos State High Court in Lagos on Tuesday sentenced a Togolese cook, Sunday Adefonou Anani,...
South-West Governors Vow To Stamp Out Kidnapping, Banditry
Amid frightening insecurity challenges rocking the country and zone, South West governors on Tuesday converged on Ibadan, Oyo State to...
Tertiary Institutions Failed To Use 380,477 Admission Quota In 2018 – JAMB
About three hundred and eighty thousand, Four Hundred and Seventy-Seven admission quota were not utilised in the 2018 tertiary education...
Court Orders Ekiti Monarch To Vacate Stool Years After Installation
The Owa of Odo Ayedun, Oba Ilesanmi Ajibade has been ordered by the Court of Appeal sitting in Ado Ekiti...
Nigeria Loses About N455bn Of GDP To Poor Sanitation Annually – Survey
Nigeria is losing a whopping sum of N455 billion out of N143,213,450,337.56 trillion ($397,270,000), representing 1.3 per cent of its...
NEWS8 hours ago
10 Killed In Wukari High Way Road Blocks
ENTERTAINMENT7 hours ago
‘Don’t Link Me With Helicopter Incidents At Ore’, Says Julian Osula
COVER STORIES20 hours ago
CBN Kicks Off PMB’s 100m Jobs Project
COVER STORIES20 hours ago
Zamfara: Ex-Gov Yari Leaves N251bn Debt
NEWS20 hours ago
Gov Fintiri Sacks LG Staff Employed From April 2016 To Date
WORLD11 hours ago
‘Mental Retardation’: Iran’s President Mocks Donald Trump
OPINION19 hours ago
PMB’s Next Cabinet And The Case For Saleh
FEATURES22 hours ago
Obaseki, Oshiomhole’s Rift Ignites Realignment In Edo