Nov 25, 2021 - Sports

Special report: Women's soccer stares down change

the back of a female soccer player

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The next few months could be among the most important in American women's soccer history, with significant change on the horizon for both the NWSL and USWNT.

The big picture: Collective bargaining agreements tend to be tedious, and lawsuits can drag on. But as 2022 approaches, that's where the action is.

  • The NWSLPA will negotiate its first-ever CBA this offseason, which comes on the heels of a scandal-ridden campaign that exposed the need for cultural and structural change.
  • The USWNT is also negotiating a new CBA, all while remaining at the forefront of a global push for gender pay equity. The team's 2019 discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer is still ongoing.

The backdrop: Interest in women's sports has been on the rise for years, and there's a sense that we've reached a turning point.

  • Ratings are up, coverage is increasing, female athletes are commanding more attention and sponsors are spending more money.
  • "The stakeholders on the commercial side of sports are constantly searching for the next frontier," Dan Cohen of Octagon Sports told WashPost. "It is clearly women's sports."

Between the lines: As the NWSL and USWNT players pursue transformative change, both on and off the field, they can set a new standard for women's sports — not just in America but around the world.

The bottom line: "The idea that women athletes are expected to just be appreciative that they have an opportunity ... we're past that point," Cheryl Cooky, editor of the Sociology of Sports Journal, told Axios' Erin Doherty.

This story is part of a special report on the state of U.S. women's soccer. It appeared first in Axios Sports. (Sign up here.)

Go deeper:

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  2. More Americans can name USWNT player than USMNT player
  3. Cindy Parlow Cone: “We’re on the same side” as USWNT on equal pay
  4. USWNT and USMNT fighting for equal pay in CBA negotiations
  5. Two NWSL teams searching for new head coaches after abuse allegations
  6. Player empowerment is key to the future of U.S. women's pro soccer
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