The best team in the United States kicks off today. Yes, I’m talking about the U.S. women’s national soccer team, who will begin their 2015 World Cup title defense this afternoon against Thailand. Will you be watching? I know I will be.
I’ve spent some blog bandwidth praising the growth of soccer in the United States—from the emergence of MLS to the increase in interest in European leagues. It’s definitely a sport that’s on the rise here stateside, but the U.S. men’s national team’s failure to qualify for the 2016 World Cup put a solid damper on the game’s growth.
It was a frustrating time to be a U.S. soccer supporter, but thankfully, our winning team has qualified—and is a favorite to bring another World Cup back home.
The USWNT is the best in the world, securing three of seven World Cup titles since FIFA started the competition in 1991. Yet despite their sheer global dominance during that span, the women’s national team is still fighting for pay equity as compared to their male counterparts. Since the World Cup expanded to 32 teams, the men’s national team has only made it to the quarterfinals once. Contrast that with the top-flight level of play from the women’s national team—including its 2015 World Cup title—and it’s a head-scratching notion.
To the victors go the spoils, but it’s not so in the world of women’s soccer. It’s a fight that they’re still waging.
But while that battle will play out slowly in the courts, today’s battle will occur on a pitch in Reims, France. It’s the first step to the USWNT reaffirming their status as the States’ best international athletes. Best of luck, ladies—we’ll be watching, for sure.