PASADENA, Calif. — The United States women’s soccer team’s World Cup triumph wasn’t just about a fourth trophy. It became centered around Megan Rapinoe and President Donald Trump, equal pay for women, and further increasing soccer’s national relevance.
On Saturday night at the Rose Bowl, as the “We are the champions!” chant was eventually replaced by fans screaming “equal pay,” it became clear the Victory Tour isn’t all about celebrating, either.
“What does a victory tour do?” USWNT head coach Jill Ellis said. “It allows you to share the trophy, share the moment, share the experience of the summer.”
In front of 37,040 fans, the USWNT team took another step in maintaining the attention garnered through a second consecutive World Cup victory. The U.S defeated Ireland 3-0 in the stadium where the 1999 team brought women’s soccer to the national spotlight. Twenty years later, the USWNT pushed the same message, bringing larger meaning to an exhibition game.
Ellis noted that the Victory Tour is a way to “share the experiences of the summer,” and that reaches beyond the trophies, video-board celebrations, and U.S soccer legends that will be present throughout the tour. It’s about the whole experience of the 2019 World Cup, and the USWNT’s aspirations to incite change both in their sport and beyond.
“It's, you know, a massive platform and I think the players recognize that, acknowledge that, and utilize that to move change,” Ellis said.
Multiple players mentioned their National Women’s Soccer League teams and how they hope fans will follow them to those games as well. The idea is that fans who fell in love with certain athletes during the World Cup, or when the Victory Tour comes to their city, will then bring their fandom to a NWSL team. Sort of like how American soccer fans pick European soccer teams based off World Cup performances.
“Obviously we have national team games happen once a month,” said goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who plays for the Chicago Red Stars. “But we're playing every weekend in different markets around the country.”
As the USWNT continues its tour, players can continue to share their thoughts on equal pay. The USWNT sued its own federation in March over gender discrimination. Earlier this week, United States Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro said the USWNT has actually been paid more than the men over the last decade. He did not acknowledge the incentive-based pay the women have earned in order to be paid more than men.
As the discussion unfolded, players from the USWNT flew into California prior to the game and met with celebrities from the organization Time’s Up, which is dedicated to equal workplace treatment of women. On Friday, a partnership between the USWNT and Time’s Up was announced. The objective of the partnership is to help fund the fight for equal play across workplaces.
“The more powerful that the collective can become, the more powerful we are,” said striker Carli Lloyd. “It's about sitting down and getting different ideas together. And figuring out how we can all connect and all support one another.”
The U.S. soccer players don’t want the game to grow in just America, either. FIFA didn’t promote this World Cup to the level it would a men’s tournament and players want that to change as well.
It starts with countries emphasizing the women’s game. Players acknowledged increased investment from other countries is coming and they’re excited. Sure, it may improve the competition and make it harder to earn another Victory Tour, but with the USWNT there’s always a broader perspective.
“We want more federations to be pouring money into the players because excellence is there,” said forward Christen Press. “The potential is there. We need those resources, and the more resources that other federations give to their players, the more that we'll have.”
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