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She Believes: Inspiring change in the women’s sports realm.

The United States Women’s National Soccer Team has been making headlines for years now. In 2015, besides already accruing four Olympic gold medals, they became the first women’s team to win three separate World Cup Championships in 1991, 1999, and 2015. Four years later the USWNT beat their own record with a fourth championship title win against the Netherlands.

Still, beyond the record breaking, some of those on the USWNT additionally hoped to break a few glass ceilings around the same time. In 2015 the USWNT player’s association and the U.S. Soccer Federation had a legal dispute over the team’s contracts; perhaps jump-starting the following years of lawsuits.

In 2016 a group of prominent players, including Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Becky Sauerbrunn, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the USSF for unequal pay and treatment compared to that offered to the national men’s team. USSF responded to this complaint by claiming support for the women’s team, and that the discrepancies in team salaries were due to pay structure rather than preferential treatment.

Due to unsatisfying responses such as these the Equal Pay lawsuit is still in progress today. While progress has majorly slowed in response to
the COVID-19 pandemic, support for the player’s association has only grown. At this point nearly 30 players have come together in efforts to reveal the institutionalized gender discrimination going on within the USSF.

Meanwhile, the federation began to change their narrative as the trials went on. Where they originally claimed support for the women’s team, stating only pay structure to blame, comments have since been made describing how men’s and women’s soccer require different skill sets and abilities. Currently, the USSF continues to use the defense that men are simply stronger and faster than women, making them better soccer players. Interestingly enough the U.S. national soccer teams themselves are very obviously not exemplary of this argument as the USMNT holds zero championship titles compared to the USWNT’s four.

The Equal Pay lawsuit remains an inspiring conflict currently within the U.S. soccer world. Overall the primary message of the women on this team is that women are no less capable than men in any capacity, and thus if successful in their arenas, should be paid accordingly. This is a strong, solid message for the USWNT fan base, which is understandably largely populated by young girls.

Alongside the legal efforts, the USWNT has also begun annually hosting the SheBelieves Cup – a tournament dedicated to encouraging young girls to strive for greatness. Since its inception in 2017 the USWNT has won this tournament three times.

Ultimately, the U.S. Women’s National Team has proven itself to be an exemplary team regardless of gender, and has additionally recognized their responsibility to use their success in a way that will better the experience of those strong women to come.

Sources: ESPN, SB Nation, USSoccer

Image Description: Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, and Becky Sauerbrunn sport their “Equal Play Equal Pay” shirts.

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