U.S. women advance to World Cup knockout stage — but a bigger victory was already secured off the field

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The U.S. women’s national soccer team barely advanced to the knockout stage of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a 0-0 draw against Portugal on Monday morning. But the two-time defending champions have already notched one of its biggest wins off the field — playing in their first World Cup with equal pay to men.

Prior to this year’s tournament, some veteran U.S. women’s national team players had been earning just 38% of what veteran U.S. men’s national team players were making per game.

“It meant a lot to be able to achieve what we’ve done,” two-time World Cup champion Kelley O’Hara said. “We still have more progress to make and ways to go.”

That includes bringing in more money for women’s sports.

“It feels like a real opportunity to blow the lid off,” Megan Rapinoe said during June’s media day. “Like, this is actually a terrible business move if you’re not getting in on it. If you’re not investing.”

FIFA sponsorship has grown 150% since the last Women’s World Cup. On TV, the matches are forecast to reach 2 billion viewers worldwide — a nearly 80% increase from the last tournament in 2019.

“From a business perspective, it’s all upside,” said Ally Financial chief marketing and PR officer Andrea Brimmer.

The company recently announced it’s working to spend equally on paid advertising across women’s and men’s sports over the next five years.

“Eighty percent of all purchase decisions in a household are made by women,” Brimmer said. “This is who the consumer is today, and women’s sports are at a tipping point of really becoming massive.”

Haley Rosen, founder and CEO of Just Women’s Sports, a media platform devoted solely to covering just that, said it’s about both bringing women’s sports into the mainstream and building on their existing audience.

“When women’s sports gets proper attention, coverage, people watch,” she said. “It’s so easy to be a fan of the NBA, fan of the NFL. That’s really what we’re trying to do.”

USWNT’s Lindsey Horan said that the country has “grown into loving the game now.”

“You see so much more investment and you see people actually, like, wanting and learning. It’s incredible,” she said.

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