The US women’s national team just won its fourth Women’s World Cup, and its second in a row, beating the Netherlands today in the final game 2-0. The victory, which would be sweet on any occasion, is especially poignant this year as the women’s team fights for equal pay to that of their male counterparts, having just begun mediation in a lawsuit brought by all 28 US female players against their employer alleging gender discrimination last month.
The tournament’s final game in Lyon, France today was very tense. For the first 45 minutes, no goals were scored and it seemed neither team was assured victory. But in the second half a penalty kick was awarded to the Americans and team captain Megan Rapinoe scored. Rose Lavelle scored the final goal, sealing the American win.
Rapinoe must be especially elated. It was her fiftieth international goal from the penalty spot and the first sign that the Americans would take the cup. But it was more than just the athletic feat that makes this victory particularly meaningful.
Rapinoe made waves early in the tournament by saying that she wouldn’t go to the White House if the team was victorious and US president Donald Trump invited them. Her statements, which were based on Trump’s lack of support for the LGBTQ community and his anger over NFL players refusing to stand during the national anthem to protest systemic racism, prompted the American president to tweet at the soccer star. Trump questioned Rapinoe’s patriotism, and invited the women’s team to visit whether they won or lost the tournament ultimately.
Winning will surely make declining any possible invitation all the more pleasing to Rapinoe. “I am not going to fake it, hobnob with the president, who is clearly against so many of the things that I am [for] and so many of the things that I actually am,” Rapinoe told Sports Illustrated. “I have no interest in extending our platform to him.”
Now, her team’s massive platform is even more powerful and that’s good news for Rapinoe’s efforts to raise consciousness and fight the pay gap.
The US women’s soccer team matches have of late been bringing in stronger ticket sales and more revenue from games than the men’s team games did between 2016 and 2018. FIFA, the international soccer league, expected a total of 1 billion viewers to tune in for the women’s World Cup matches this year, and ticket prices have been breaking records. Any claim that the national female players aren’t worth as much to the league now, or to the sport generally, at this point sound not just sexist and dated but downright crazy.