Women score major changes in 2022
Soccer kicked in the right direction due to women’s global successes
Written by Abigail Jarvis
Over the summer, women’s soccer has seen major changes on personal, city-wide, national and international levels. Each success brought attention to the ongoing fight for women’s rights and the unequal treatment of female athletes.
Former player, World Cup Winner and two-time Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach went viral twice this past summer, each time highlighting social issues and advocating for women on the playing field. The speech Wambach gave at Loyola Marymount University’s commencement ceremony was shared thousands of times on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Each success brought attention to the ongoing fight for women’s rights and the unequal treatment of female athletes.
In the speech, Wambach addressed political events like the overturning of Roe V. Wade (which happened just days prior to the speech), the imbalance of representation between men and women, and the need for diversity on all fronts. Wambach emphasized the need for the graduates to flip tables and shake up the social norm, just as she has done.
Wambach next went viral on TikTok, with 924,900 views and 107,200 likes. The clips in the TikTok were from ESPN’s new series “Title IX: 37 Words That Changed America.” In the show, Wambach and other athletes talked about the impact of Title IX, the civil rights law that legislatively prohibits discrimination in schools based on sex, and how that law relates to their careers in professional athletics.
Within the video, she spoke to when Peyton Manning, Kobe Bryant, and herself were recipients of the 2016 ESPY Icon Award. “We just got the same damn award. Same sweat, the same sacrifice. Yet the three of us were walking into three very different retirements.” Wambach’s recent personal accomplishments and recognition furthered the movement for equality in soccer this summer as she continued to be an advocate for women’s rights.
This summer, women raised the bar as athletes and as activists.
Wambach also made a huge impact on Los Angeles’ new soccer team, Angel City Football Club. Angel City is the first majority-women-owned soccer franchise. Wambach and movie star Natalie Portman initiated the movement to found the team several years after Wambach’s retirement. Since then, they have added over 100 sponsors including notable names such as singer Christina Aguilera, Olympian skier Lindsey Vonn and tennis icons Billie Jean King and Serena Williams.
The club is unique for its ownership, philanthropy, diversity and purpose. The team was built for women by women. According to Angel City’s listed mission statement, the team was created in order to send a “strong message to young girls in the community and beyond.” Angel City’s first match was played this spring on April 29, 2022.
In another historic first, the pay gap between men and women’s soccer was closed this summer when women achieved identical economic conditions. This was achieved through numerous organizations and players’ efforts. The effort dates as far back as Mia Hamm, one of the most acclaimed soccer players of all time, who played from 1987 to 2004. She did not receive pay equal to her male contemporaries. In 1996, players for the U.S. National Men’s team earned a bonus for every game won in the Olympics that year — Hamm and the women’s team would only receive a bonus if they won the gold medal.
The fight for equal pay has intensified in recent years, especially after the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) won the 2015 FIFA World Cup. This was the team’s third World Cup victory. The U.S. Men’s team still has yet to win a FIFA World Cup title.
Advocates and USWNT team members such as Megan Rapinoe have been vocal on the necessity for equal pay. “The United States Women’s National Team has won four World Cup championships and four Olympic gold medals on behalf of our country. We have filled stadiums, broken viewing records, and sold out jerseys, all popular metrics by which we are judged,” Rapinoe said while testifying before Congress in 2021. “Yet despite all of this, we are still paid less than men — for each trophy, of which there are many, each win, each tie, each time we play.”
The efforts of these female athletes came to fruition in late May and into early summer when the court ruled for equal pay. In a landmark settlement, both the U.S. men’s and women’s teams will finally receive equal pay while competing internationally. The U.S. Women’s Player’s Association hopes that this advancement will create a “global standard.”
Another remarkable soccer success story of the summer was the UEFA Women’s European Championship. The England vs. Germany match sold out Wembley stadium — the largest sports arena in the United Kingdom, and the second largest in the whole of Europe. Commentators remarked that only eight people didn’t show with their tickets on game day, and that those eight ticket-holders missed the match of a lifetime. England's win in the Euro marks the highest ever attendance for a Euro Championship game.
The women playing for England recognized the significance of their strength as female athletes and representing their country. After playing on one of soccer’s largest stages, Keira Walsh said in a press conference, “every girl should feel comfortable to play football, and [we] hope that we’ve inspired them to do that.”
This summer, women raised the bar as athletes and as activists. Collectively, these women challenged social norms, demanded that their rights and the rights of others were upheld, and served as role models for women around the world.