WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team will face off in the FIFA World Cup finals in France on Sunday, but they have had to face obstacles on and off the field. All 28 players are suing their employer, U.S. Soccer, for gender discrimination. Purdue Professor Cheryl Cooky is an expert on gender inequality in sports.
"The women are set to earn a maximum of $90,000 this tournament, whereas the men had the potential to earn over a half a million dollars," she said.
The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team didn't even qualify for the 2018 FIFA tournament. Cooky said when it comes the world cup, it's all about the three R's.
"That's ratings, revenue, and retail," she said.
U.S. Soccer is claiming they don't have to pay the women's team as much money because they don't bring in as many ratings or as much revenue. That wasn't the case in this year's tournament.
"FIFA has estimated a number close to 1 billion viewers across all of it's platforms for this women's world cup tournament," she said.
Cooky said U.S. Soccer data shows the women's team is bringing in 2 million more dollars than the men's team.
"This team is bringing such a high quality of the sport into our living rooms, into our sports bars and our communities," she said.
"This team has captured (the locals) heart," said owner of Nine Irish Brothers, Jerry O'Bryan. "They take a beating and keep on ticking, they're really good."
His West Lafayette location was packed for the semi-final game against England.
"We had a nice crowd in here with the U-S-A chant," he said. "When they finally won that thing, it was euphoric."
O'Bryan said he has a passion of women's sports. He was a fast-pitch coach for Purdue's softball team in the 1970's. He said he's also had the pleasure of seeing his daughters grow up and participate in various sports. He thinks this women's team is inspiring the next generation of athletes.
"My granddaughter is 14 and she comes in and she just loves it and she thinks wow, maybe I can do that someday," he said. "You didn't always have that in women's sports."
"The women's team is out performing the men here in the U.S.," said Cooky. "These kinds of ideas that women's sport isn't as exciting as men's sport or people aren't as interested, no one's going to tune in to watch. All of those conventional understandings are being directly challenged."
Cooky said equality is a win for both genders. She has been studying this issue for more than 20 years. She said it's easier for universities to treat their teams more equally because of things like Title IX. She thinks Purdue does a good job of keeping its teams on a level playing field, but said there is still room for improvement.
"For every dollar that gets invested in women's soccer at the collegiate level, two and a half dollars goes to the men's side," she said.
O'Bryan said this team is showing the world what they are made of.
"The American men are tough, but the women win titles," he said with a laugh.
"I love these international competitions because they bring people from all over the world together over this common love of sport, this common language," said Cooky. "We have such a dominant, athletic and competitive team."
Nine Irish Brothers is opening its doors early on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. for a watch party. Kick off between the U.S. and the Netherlands in the final game is at 11 a.m. Cooky said she ordered a Megan Rapinoe jersey that she hopes gets to her door in time for the game.
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