Equal­ity will be the theme of this Women’s World Cup

The News-Times - - TENNIS | SOCCER -

The world’s best player won’t be at the Women’s World Cup but the world’s best team will be, with both sides tak­ing a stand for equal­ity.

The U.S. na­tional team, ranked No. 1 glob­ally, will try to de­fend its ti­tle in soc­cer’s premier tour­na­ment, which kicks off Fri­day in Paris. While the Amer­i­cans make their way around France for the month­long event, back at home they’re all part of a law­suit that ac­cuses U.S. Soc­cer of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Mean­while, Ada Hegerberg, the first fe­male Bal­lon d’Or win­ner for the world’s top player, won’t be ac­com­pa­ny­ing Norway’s na­tional team. She stepped away in

2017 be­cause of what she per­ceives to be a gen­eral dis­re­gard for women’s soc­cer by the coun­try’s fed­er­a­tion. The crux of her frus­tra­tion is the un­even pace of progress and strat­egy in the women’s game.

Hegerberg, 23, is at the top of her game. She had a hat trick for Lyon in its 4-1 win over Barcelona in the re­cent Women’s Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal. In do­mes­tic games, she has 211 goals in

208 games.

“We are happy for this de­bate to raise at­ten­tion and re­spect for women’s soc­cer in the world, and I do view it as a big change-maker.” said Lise Klave­ness, sport­ing direc­tor for the Nor­we­gian Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion, “But I just wish she was in our team.”

The U.S. team hopes to col­lec­tively be a dif­fer­ence­maker, too.

Twenty-eight mem­bers of the cur­rent player pool filed the law­suit on March 8 in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Los An­ge­les, al­leg­ing “in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion” that in­cludes in­equitable com­pen­sa­tion when com­pared with their coun­ter­parts on the men’s na­tional team.

Be­cause the law­suit is still in the early stages, it’s likely no sig­nif­i­cant move­ment will be made un­til the team re­turns home.

Megan Rapi­noe was asked whether the pay is­sue puts more pres­sure on the team — which will al­ready be fac­ing a strong field look­ing to top­ple the three-time World Cup win­ners.

“I think that the huge me­dia splash of the law­suit is be­hind us and we’re ob­vi­ously fo­cused on the World Cup,” Rapi­noe said. “But also it’s like this is our life, and there are a lot of things that we have to grap­ple and deal with: Fam­ily, friends, part­ners, me­dia, pres­sures, games, World Cup, travel. So it’s just kind of just one more thing. This team al­ways has a lot of me­dia at­ten­tion, and we’ve al­ways had a lot of things on our plate so it’s not like it’s any­thing new, or all of a sud­den we’re get­ting all the more at­ten­tion. It’s sort of the same for us.”

The 24-team tour­na­ment will be played at nine sta­di­ums across France over the course of the next month, with the fi­nal set for July 7 in Lyon. Here are some things to look for:

THE LAST TIME

The United States won the last World Cup in 2015. Carli Lloyd scored three goals in the first 16 min­utes to help give the Amer­i­cans a 5-2 vic­tory over Ja­pan for their third over­all World Cup ti­tle, most for any na­tion since the tour­na­ment was in­tro­duced in 1991. Eng­land was a sur­pris­ing third-place fin­isher in Canada.

VAR

In March, FIFA ap­proved the use of video re­view for the World Cup in France. The Video As­sis­tant Ref­eree sys­tem, or VAR, was used at the men’s World Cup in Rus­sia last year.

PRIZE MONEY

The prize money for the World Cup will be $30 mil­lion, of which $4 mil­lion will go to the fed­er­a­tion of the cham­pion. While the to­tal is dou­ble the prize money for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, it is a fraction of the $400 mil­lion in prize money for last year’s men’s World Cup, of which $38 mil­lion went to cham­pion France.

TICKET FI­ASCO

Some fans who or­dered tick­ets to World Cup matches were sur­prised last month when they dis­cov­ered their seats were not to­gether. The is­sue was es­pe­cially prob­lem­atic for fam­i­lies bring­ing young chil­dren. Af­ter an out­cry on so­cial me­dia, FIFA said it would work with the lo­cal or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee to re­solve the is­sues.

Some fans re­cently re­ported tick­ets that had been de­liv­ered elec­tron­i­cally were no longer avail­able.

TOO MANY TOUR­NA­MENTS

FIFA has also been crit­i­cized for sched­ul­ing the World Cup fi­nal on the same day as the Copa Amer­ica fi­nal in Rio and the CON­CA­CAF Gold Cup fi­nal in Chicago. U.S. coach Jill El­lis point­edly said: “In my own per­sonal opin­ion, play­ing three big matches in one day isn’t sup­port­ing the women’s game. So, there you go.”

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