The winners of the Women’s World Cup not only are inspiring Western Pennsylvania soccer players with their footwork, but they’re also showing players on boys and girls teams that it’s important to stand up for yourself.
The United States Women’s National Team’s win in France on Sunday was met with chants of “equal pay” by fans dressed in red, white and blue who apparently side with the players’ quest to be paid equally to the men’s national team, as outlined in a lawsuit filed against U.S. Soccer Federation earlier this year.
“I think it’s really good from the standpoint that they’re trying to be seen as equals,” said Zak Kruger, coach of the Seton Hill University women’s soccer team. “As a women’s coach, I’m very supportive of them using their voice.”
What the women’s team did on the field is not easy, said Katie Yohe, coach of the Westmoreland County Community College’s women’s soccer team.
“I think it’s great that they’re using their platform for something,” she said. “The pay disparity between the men’s game and the women’s game is something that kind of baffles the mind when you look at the results they put up.”
Coaches and soccer officials around the region agreed Monday that the platform the U.S. team has been given by virtue of its 2-0 win over the Netherlands has furthered the awareness of gender discrimination claims filed in March.
The team even found an ally in French President Emmanuel Macron, who said: “We need to go progressively toward that,” the Associated Press reported.
The lawsuit contends the women are paid less than the men in salary and performance bonuses and receive less support in training, travel, marketing and other areas, the Washington Post reported. Women are paid an annual salary through a collective bargaining agreement, while men earn wages on a per-game basis.
The women won a record fourth World Cup on Sunday, bringing in a $30 million prize, according to CNN. The winner of the 2018 men’s World Cup got $400 million.
The U.S. men’s team has not made it past the tournament’s quarterfinals since a third-place finish in 1930, the Post reported. Both parties have agreed to mediation on the lawsuit.
The team is trailblazing the equal-pay issue, said Tim McCoy, director of PA West Soccer, which serves youth ages 4 to 19 on teams in 134 clubs throughout the western side of the state.
“It’s an important issue in soccer,” he said. “For them to do it, they’re … also hitting something that is a societal issue.”
At Beadling Soccer Club, based in Bridgeville, it’s important that the female players get the same opportunities as the male players, said coach Missy Dalbon. She hopes to see any progress in the pay gap that the women’s team makes trickle down to the National Women’s Soccer League.
“I definitely agree with it. I think they definitely deserve it,” said Dalbon, who also is coach of Bethel Park’s high school girls team. “I think it needs to be across the board. I think this is a great platform for it as well.”
While some youngsters may not fully grasp the equal pay situation, soccer officials know there will be increased interest in joining a team as a result of the win. Norwin Soccer Club spokesman Rob Bunovich said he expects to see players wearing the jerseys of popular players such as Megan Rapinoe this fall.
Support for women’s soccer, from the recreational level to the collegiate and professional teams, needs to continue, not just every four years when the World Cup is held, Dalbon said.
Al Alvine, coach of the Duquesne University women’s soccer team, said he thinks there will be some positive change as a result of the national team’s push on the worldwide stage.
“I think it’s a great platform for them,” Alvine said. “I think they’d be crazy not to take advantage of that. There’s just so much money in the men’s game, I think it’s going to be difficult to get on equal footing anytime soon.”