The U.S. women's national team kicks off a five-game Victory Tour this weekend to celebrate its World Cup championship, with a match against Ireland this Saturday, Aug. 3, at the Rose Bowl (airing on ESPN2 at 9pm). It'll be a farewell tour for coach Jill Ellis as well: She announced this week that she'll be stepping down after these games end in October. Ellis led the USWNT to two World Cup titles in her five years in charge; the U.S. Soccer Federation won't name a replacement until after they hire a general manager.
Speaking of the USSF and USWNT, there's been an interesting one-two this week on the players' lawsuit demanding equal pay and working conditions. On Monday, the USSF released its response – noting that they already pay the women more than they pay the men (except for performance bonuses that come from FIFA) and also pay for the women's National Women's Soccer League salaries and health insurance. Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for the players, replied, "The USSF fact sheet is not a 'clarification.' It is a ruse. Here is what they cannot deny: For every game a man plays on the MNT, he makes a higher base salary payment than a woman on the WNT. For every comparable win or tie, his bonus is higher. That is the very definition of gender discrimination." And on Wednesday, the U.S. men's players association weighed in on the women's side, calling it "more of the same from a Federation that is constantly in disputes and litigation and focuses on increasing revenues and profits without any idea how to use that money to grow the sport. One way to increase profit unfairly is to refuse to pay national team players a fair share of the revenue they generate." The women "are right to pursue a legal remedy from the courts or Congress."
Another data point: Figures released this week show that the average 30-second TV spot at this year's Women's World Cup went for $506,665, a new record for any WC, and some 15% higher than the comparable number for last year's men's tourney.
Meanwhile, pressure mounts on the USSF to put in a bid to host the 2023 WWC, which, amazingly, has yet to be decided, even though the men's WCs are always set at least two tournaments in advance. FIFA confirmed this week that it will raise the number of finalists from 24 teams to 32 for the next edition, and has reopened the bidding process to host it.