USWNT attacker Megan Rapinoe said on Tuesday that the upcoming World Cup will be a significant moment for women’s sport. This comes after a pay dispute between her team and federation overshadowed their successful 2019 campaign.
The American team is aiming for an unprecedented third consecutive title, coinciding with the rapid growth of women’s football. FIFA predicts that the tournament in Australia and New Zealand will have the highest attendance ever for a standalone women’s sporting event.
“The sort of acceptable cognitive dissonance and just denial of what we actually are and how incredible women’s sports are… those days are, you know, pretty much long gone. And that would be quite a tough and embarrassing position to still keep,” said Rapinoe.
“It feels like this is a paradigm shift or a moment we’ll look back to and say that nothing was ever the same after this Women’s World Cup.”
The winner of the 2019 women’s Ballon d’Or, who was a prominent figure in her team’s fight for equal pay with US Soccer and had a well-known clash with former US President Donald Trump during the 2019 tournament, finds herself in a completely different situation this time. In 2022, the players and federation resolved their dispute, and when the US World Cup squad was announced last week, US President Joe Biden sent a video message of support to the team.
The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) experienced an increase in ratings and attendance after the 2019 campaign, and Rapinoe, who won the Golden Boot and Ball in France, anticipates a similar positive impact from this year’s tournament.
“It feels like a real opportunity to kind of like blow the lid off just in terms of fanfare and media and sponsorships and the sort of larger business around this sport,” Rapinoe told reporters at the US team’s pre-tournament media day.
“Everybody is thankfully pushing in the right direction and pushing in the same direction now. And sky’s the limit from here.”
In the upcoming World Cup, American fans can anticipate a different team compared to 2019, as 14 out of the 23 US players will be making their debuts in the tournament. Additionally, the team will be led by head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who has taken over from the successful previous manager Jill Ellis.
“The competition is not going to be any easier than the previous ones,” said Andonovski, who travelled to Qatar last year to work with the US men’s team.
“We keep hearing how the competition is getting closer and how it’s getting tougher. I actually think that the competition started getting tougher 25 years ago and we just had a great staff.”
Andonovski, who guided the team to a bronze medal at the Olympics in Tokyo in 2019, did not announce a new captain on Tuesday following defender Becky Sauerbrunn’s injury. However, he emphasized that he will depend on a close-knit group of seasoned players, such as Rapinoe, Morgan, and Horan, to lead the team in the correct direction.
“I’m not worried about the inexperience,” he said. “They’re going to lead the young group.”
The competition begins on July 20th.