Can you name any women’s soccer players besides Megan Rapinoe? I couldn’t either until last year. Rather than listening to the Superbowl or March Madness as background noise, I embarked on a journey to actively watching a sport.
Women’s History Month recognizes and celebrates the importance of women in history. I don’t watch soccer because I love watching ladies kick a ball into a goal—I look up to these powerful women as role models. There’s more to the story than just understanding and appreciating women’s soccer.
- Choosing Our Allegiance
My dad was itching to watch any sport after COVID canceled everything for a few months. The first American professional team sport to return after the initial shutdown was the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The idea of watching a women’s sport piqued my interest, and we began to watch the NWSL Challenge Cup together.
As soccer newbies, we felt no allegiance to a particular team. We rooted for the Portland Thorns because of Portland soccer representation on the show “Stumptown.” I even bought a Thorns sweatshirt, which meant I was committed!
While I enjoyed watching the games, I cared more about the women’s backgrounds. I’d Google their backstories as the game progressed. I’d feed my dad tidbits of trivia as the players ran back down the field. “Hey Dad, did you know that Christine Sinclair played for the University of Portland before coming to the Thorns, but she’s known as the best soccer player from Canada? Oh, and she listens to Michael Jackson before every game?”
- Issues Off of the Field
In 2019, the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) filed a gender-discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF). The USWNT will now receive the same working conditions as the men’s team, like hotels and charter flights.
There is still a major pay gap, despite the success of the women’s team. The Washington Post reports that since 2016, the USWNT brought in at least half of USSF’s revenue from games. Madani explains that the USWNT has won four FIFA Women’s World Cup titles, while the U.S. men’s team has zero FIFA titles.
The two teams’ original salary negotiations complicate the pay inequities, but the women deserve better. The USWNT has to be the best women’s team on the planet to receive similar pay to the men’s team. Watching this lawsuit unfold only increases my investment in the success of women’s soccer as a whole. These women should be making that money!
- Feeling the Energy
Do you know how excited (or angry) some people get when a football team gets a touchdown or a basketball player scores a sick three-pointer? I never understood those over-the-top reactions until I started watching the Portland Thorns tear it up on the field. Watching the ball slip past the goalie makes my heart race. It is even more satisfying when the announcer screams, “GOAL!!!!!!”
There aren’t long pauses every few minutes, so I don’t get distracted by scrolling on Instagram. American football players take their sweet, sweet time to reset between each play, and it feels like the game loses all momentum.
There is the occasional “pause” during soccer for medical assistance or a referee call. Rather than stopping the clock, this “stoppage time” is just added to the end of the game. The action never stops!
I never thought I’d say this, but caring about a sport is kind of fun. I’m invested in the teams, players and the social issues involved with the USWNT. Please don’t ask me to explain “offsides” or other confusing rules, though. I’m still learning as I grow a deeper appreciation for women’s sports. Let’s go, Portland Thorns!