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U.S. women’s soccer team’s next foe is injustice

A second straight World Cup championship makes the women’s team far more successful than the U.S. men, but their paychecks do not reflect that.
The U.S. women's national team has far exceeded the accomplishments of the U.S. men's team. Here, Alex Morgan, left and Allie Long celebrate their victory 2-0 victory over The Netherlands in the Women's World Cup final soccer match at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, Sunday, July 7, 2019. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
Published Jul. 8
Updated Jul. 8

Do not stop cheering. Not today, not tomorrow, not until the United States Women’s soccer team completes the job.

Yes, the women won a second consecutive World Cup title on Sunday in France. Yes, they dominated everyone they faced, never trailing for even one second in their seven games.

But one opponent still remains, and the stakes are as high as ever:

The national team needs to kick the U.S. Soccer Federation’s butt.

WORLD CUP: How the U.S. women won their second straight World Cup title

There is no neutral ground in this fight. Either you believe in logic, justice and the law, or you believe in the bureaucratic pinheads who run our national soccer program.

If you haven’t heard by now, the women’s U.S. soccer team is grossly underpaid compared to their male counterparts here in the States. The players filed a federal lawsuit in March alleging gender discrimination in pay, and both sides tentatively agreed to attend mediation after the World Cup.

Personally, I think the Soccer Federation would be better off with an intervention.

How clueless can these people be? They aren’t just wrong, they are driving blindfolded on the wrong side of the street.

Let’s consider the issues here:

* The women’s team is paid less than the men’s team. Not even the federation disputes that. In their lawsuit, the women claim they make roughly 38 cents for every dollar the men’s team makes.

* The resume of the women’s team makes the U.S. men’s team look like the neighborhood rec league. The women have won four World Cups and four Olympic golds. The men have never won either. Heck, the men haven’t even qualified for the last two Olympic Games.

* The women’s team generated more money than the men’s team from 2016 to 2018, according to the U.S. Soccer Federation’s own financial statements acquired by the Wall Street Journal. Nike also recently announced the national team’s women’s jersey was the best-selling soccer jersey in the apparel company’s history.

US players celebrate their 2-0 victory over The Netherlands in the Women's World Cup final soccer match Sunday in France. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

So, to recap, the women are more popular, more successful and more profitable than the men. And yet their paychecks are less than half the size.

Which means, instead of capitalizing on the greatest springboard imaginable to promote the sport, much of the attention in the coming weeks will be devoted to a heroic group of women who are having to sue their own federation in the name of equality.

I’m not sure whether to condemn the federation’s discrimination or marvel at its stupidity.

Now, the federation will make the argument that men’s and women’s pay are determined separately in collective bargaining. In other words, the women agreed to their pay scale.

The problem is the national team, by definition, is a monopoly. Soccer players who grew up dreaming of playing in the World Cup, and devoted their entire lives to becoming the best players in the country, have little recourse when it comes to the national team. Either you accept the terms, or you walk away.

And, if the federation is being honest, soccer in America is infinitely more popular because of the women’s game. You think TV viewers were more interested in the men’s team losing a Gold Cup final against Mexico Sunday night or the women beating the Netherlands Sunday afternoon?

Mia Hamm? Brandi Chastain? Abby Wambach? Alex Morgan? Megan Rapinoe? How many U.S. male soccer players have greater name recognition?

This is not political correctness run amuck. We’re not talking about the salaries in pro soccer leagues. Those are private businesses and their pay scales are based on profits and revenues.

The national teams are another story. The men’s and women’s teams are both representatives of the U.S. and, theoretically, subject to the Civil Rights Act.

They are doing the same job for the same nation. It doesn’t matter that the women’s game is less popular worldwide than men’s soccer. International pay has no bearing on this argument.

TV ratings say the women are just as popular, if not more popular, than the men in this country. Jersey sales say the same thing. And the wins and losses speak for themselves.

I can think of only one acceptable reason for not paying the U.S. women’s team the exact same salary as the U.S. men’s team:

And that’s only if you think they should be paid more.

Fans in Kansas City, Mo., celebrate after the United States won the World Cup soccer final Sunday. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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