The women’s World Cup championship game, held on Saturday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, was the most-watched soccer event ever on a U.S. television network, not to mention the most-watched women’s sporting event of all time, with an audience of more than 40 million people.
The game brought in 4% greater ratings than the men’s World Cup games hosted in the U.S. in 1994 and more than twice the viewers for last year’s men’s World Cup match. This attention was much greater than the U.S. women’s team received in 1991, when they returned from China as victors, but barely received any television coverage.
The women are currently fighting for the creation of a women’s professional soccer league, and the U.S. Soccer Federation has developed a study to evaluate that possibility. The general secretary of the Federation, Hank Steinbrecher, commented that “The goal is to take what we’ve learned about women’s equity, what we’ve learned about women as equal partners and not subordinates, and export it around the world. I think we’re on the edge of a cutting revolution.”
The greater equity women receive in sports today is largely due to Title IX. Instituted in 1972, Title IX prohibits discrimination of women in sports in federally-funded educational institutions. This translates into more money and time being donated to women’s sports, allowing women’s teams to become more successful. However, implementation of Title IX varies from one institution to the next, and women’s sports continue to face many challenges.
Jeff Marquis, who attended the championship game with his daughter, said “When they were growing up, I don’t think I ever imagined that they’d have equal opportunities to play sports. But even before this thing exploded, she [his daughter, Brittany] had many of the same things [his son] got out of sports — a network of friends, the confidence, the power.”