US Women’s World Cup Title Prompts Celebrations, Questions About Pay

The U.S. women’s national soccer team on Sunday won its fourth World Cup, defeating the Netherlands 2-0. The team’s success throughout the tournament was marked by stellar performances from veterans like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, but also four members of the Chicago Red Stars, the local pro club.

Those players are goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, defender Tierna Davidson and midfielders Julie Ertz and Morgan Brian.

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Maggie Dziubek is an organizer for Chicago Local 134, the Red Stars official supporters group. She says team USA’s continued success has been “really gratifying.”

“I think the roots of our success in the United States with women’s soccer is in Title IX and progressive legislation that was enacted around women’s athletics a long time ago. Seeing the fruits of that play out on a world stage is really inspiring, really exciting,” she said.

Dziubek says Naeher’s performance in the semifinal against England, when she saved a penalty kick, was particularly noteworthy.

“When a goalkeeper does it it’s really majorly impressive,” she says. “There was a lot of doubt around Alyssa going into this World Cup, because Hope Solo left, [who] was dominant for years and years. Alyssa picked up that mantle and proved that she can hold her own in this context.”

The U.S. victory has also sparked conversations about gender discrimination and the wide pay disparity between female and male athletes. 

Mercedes Carnethon, a professor at Northwestern’s School of Medicine and a youth sports coach, applauded the team’s advocacy in a Chicago Tribune op-ed last week. And the World Cup victory, she says, also contains valuable lessons for girls and young women.

“I see so many different parallels between what it takes to be successful in sports and in business,” she said, like the importance of competition and persistence.

“What we have to really encourage is that every individual do their best every time,” she said. “You’re not going to win, but you’re going to graciously lose. You’re going to learn to say I didn’t win this time, but next time I’m going to push and beat that individual.”

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