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Home / Sports / So you've become a rabid fan of women's football. What now? : NPR

So you've become a rabid fan of women's football. What now? : NPR



Megan Rapinoe and the US squad won many fans on their way to winning the Women's World Cup on Sunday in Lyon, France. For the sport to continue to grow, this support needs to be continued long after the ticker has landed.

Alex Grimm / Getty Images


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Alex Grimm / Getty Images

Megan Rapinoe and the US team won many fans en route to winning the Women's World Cup on Sunday in Lyon, France. For the sport to continue to grow, this support needs to be continued long after the ticker has landed.

Alex Grimm / Getty Images

They cheered when Megan Rapinoe scored this ice cold penalty . You spilled your coffee when you celebrated Rose Lavelle's incredible left-foot shot . You feel guilty about watching this exciting new Nike ad. And when you saw the US team hoist the World Cup trophy over their heads on Sunday, they felt their joy as their own.

Congratulations! You are now a fan of the US women's national team, if you were not yet one.

When the US won the trophy on Sunday, viewers broke into songs of "Equal Pay!" And fans like you contribute to it.

So, what can you do? Here is your guide on how to help the sport and its players succeed.

Catch the champions on their winners tour.

The World Champions will play a series of games in at least four US cities as part of a winning tour. Websites and dates have not yet been announced. But first, on Wednesday morning, they are having a cassade parade through the streets of Manhattan, where New York Mayor de Blasio hands them the keys to the city.

To the NWSL games. (This is really important.)

Each member of the US national women's team plays in the National Women's Soccer League. Good news: The season of the league is not that long ago – which means that the players you've seen in France are soon to be players you can see in real life.

The league consists of nine teams: The Chicago Red Stars; North Carolina Courage (Raleigh), Portland Thorns, Sky Blue FC (Central New Jersey), Washington Spirit (D.C.); Houston Dash, Orlando Pride, Reign FC (Seattle) and Utah Royals FC (Salt Lake City).

Some of the NWSL teams are thriving – especially the Portland Thorns are very popular. The team attracted an average of nearly 17,000 fans per game last year. Exploring what they believe is the Thorns' world-leading popularity, the researchers found that fan culture was the main reason people loved watching games. Excited fans create excited fans.

One advantage of a small league is that most teams have a number of internationals. Also overseas you can be proud of: The Australian superstar Sam Kerr plays for the Chicago Red Stars and is the top scorer in the league of all time. Canadian legend Christine Sinclair plays alongside Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan for the Thorns.

Many of the teams play in small stadiums that are not very easy to reach by transit. The Washington Spirit with Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh plays in the Maryland SoccerPlex, about an hour northwest of DC, with a capacity of only 4,000 seats. But The Spirit will contest two upcoming games in DC United's sparkling new Audi Field, which boasts 20,000 seats on the shore of the district.

One reason the USWNT fought so hard for higher salaries is that women's football professionals in the US have no chance of paying well. For the 2019 season, the maximum player content in the league is $ 46,200, while the minimum is only $ 16,538. The more tickets, merchandise and sponsorship sold by NWSL teams, the more player wages can increase.

Fans' support is crucial to maintaining the league. Both the Boston Breakers and FC Kansas City have ceased operations in the past two years. And the NWSL builds on the ashes of two former women's football leagues that have collapsed, including one that was founded under the thrill of the US victory at the 1999 World Cup.

See how they play on television.

Another way to generate more money for women's football is to watch it on TV or through online streaming. USWNT and NWSL earn money with ads shown during their games, and the bigger the audience for each show, the more often such games are televised. And as viewership increases, networks will show more games on flagship channels rather than offering obscure cable deals.

In the past week, a big news was announced in this respect: ESPN sends 14 upcoming NWSL games on its channels ESPN2 and ESPNEWS is also streamed in the app.

Keep up the pressure on FIFA and the US Football Association.

Chants of "Equal pay!" sounded in the stadium after the US won Sunday's final in Lyon, France. And from Twitter to Congress, "pay the women" has become a tight-knit directive for the US Football Association, as the players' lawsuit against their employer goes into mediation.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino wants to double the investment in women football in the next four years and double the prize money for the winners of the next Women's World Cup – but that will not reduce the gap, because even the men's wallet will to grow.

The 2019 Women's Cup teams share $ 30 million, compared to the $ 400 million the men's teams split last year. In 2023, women will play for $ 60 million, while men's prices will rise to $ 440 million.

"If you're really interested in the same way for every game, you'll let the gap grow – no," said Rapinoe on Saturday. "Are you planning three finals the same day? No. Are some associations playing two games between tournaments over the four years? No, you do not." FIFA or US football call particularly transparent organizations, they are absolutely dependent on the support of fans and sponsors. Tell them you are interested in the women's game. Tell them to pay the women.

Do you live abroad? Support women's football where it is most needed.

The success of USWNT is a direct result of the investment in American women's sports.

A huge factor is Title IX, the sport requires departments in schools and colleges to finance women's sport as a condition for granting federal funding. Another factor is that despite the pay gap, US football is doing an admirable job supporting and financing the women's team.

Many players from other countries are not so lucky. The teams in Jamaica and Thailand, for example, rely on the fact that only one donor will support their squads if there are insufficient funds available from national associations.

There are tremendous opportunities to help these teams – whether it's a team looking for donations, a professional or college match, or coaching a girls' team.

If the millions upon millions of people who participated in this World Cup score one or two points from the list, the tournament in 2023 will be even more spectacular than this one.


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