REIMS, France — After a 13-0 win at the World Cup, there’s a lot of questions. Should the United States have continued to bring on attacking players against Thailand? Should those players have continued to score? Should they have celebrated after those goals?
A record margin of victory turns heads and makes people wonder, “How does that happen?”
One of the reasons is a difference in funding for women’s soccer across federations. The teams with the most investment and support typically find more success. U.S. players highlighted that issue Tuesday night after dismantling Thailand and said they hope the lopsided result pushes other federations to invest more in the sport.
“I think expanding the last World Cup to 24 teams is great, and I hope soon enough we expand to 32 and keep it at that number,” said striker Alex Morgan, who scored five goals against Thailand. “I think that will incentivize federations to put more financial efforts into their women’s programs, and I hope that we continue to see the development.”
The 2019 Women’s World Cup marks Thailand’s second appearance in the tournament. American-born Thailand forward Miranda Nild said in a teary postgame interview “Thailand did the best they knew how to do. We’re a developing program.”
When asked whether the difference in funding between the U.S. and Thailand soccer federations impacts the game, Thailand coach Nuengrutai Srathongvian said through a translator, “Of course, if football association of Thailand will support the female team. … We have limited resources in terms of players and selection. We have to improve on this aspect.”
Thailand’s press officer did not immediately respond to a request asking how much money the Football Association of Thailand invests in women’s soccer each year.
U.S. Soccer invested well into seven figures for the USWNT’s World Cup preparation the past six months, according to U.S. Soccer chief communications officer Neil Buethe.
“I’m sure they can mandate that in some way, like you don’t get money for anything else until you give more money to the women and make sure it’s fully staffed,” U.S. veteran Megan Rapinoe said when asked whether she thinks FIFA can step in to make sure federations don’t discard their women’s teams after embarrassing results and instead invest more heavily to improve them. “I think there’s some teams here, ya know, since last world cup they’ve only played a handful of games or only the qualifiers. I mean, it’s embarrassing, not only for the federations, but for FIFA as well. Ya just mandate it. They mandate all kinds of things.”
There is also a massive pay discrepancy between the countries’ national team players. Eight Thai players reported to the New York Times making anywhere between $159-$6,345 playing soccer this year.
The only U.S. player to share her earnings with the paper was backup goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, who said she made between $300,000-$400,000. U.S. Soccer pays a guaranteed base salary to its national team players, plus bonuses and tournament winnings. Many players also have endorsement deals and other sources of income, and they are continuing to lead a fight for more equitable play.
The USWNT was unapologetic following its overwhelming victory against Thailand despite some criticism for effusive celebrations after all 13 goals. The general consensus among the U.S. players and coach was that it’s a World Cup, goal differential matters, camaraderie matters, building confidence matters and it’s all part of growing the game and the competition.
“I hope that what I’m doing is inspiring women and girls around the world,” Morgan said. “I hope that I’m putting pressure on developmental academies and federations and people in powerful positions who have the opportunity to put more money into women’s programs [and] do so in the future.”