Multiple accounts following this year’s 2022 men’s World Cup have been forgetting to do a very simple thing: remember that women exist and play the sport, too. Throughout the tournament, multiple tweets have hit the timeline framing men’s soccer as the default when discussing records or historical moments.
Cristiano Ronaldo is not the first player to score in five World Cups. Brazil’s Marta was first and Canada’s Christine Sinclair second. Dani Alves is not the oldest player to compete at the World Cup for Brazil. That would be Formiga, who starred in SEVEN World Cups. Olivier Giroud did not become France’s all-time scorer. He’s still 34 behind Eugenie Le Sommer.
Even on the set of a Canadian show, with Canadian star Janine Beckie sitting beside, one commentator noted that a goal from Alphonso Davies was the greatest moment in Canadian soccer history. In 2021, Beckie and her teammates won Olympic gold for the first time (the anchor later apologized).
From a purely U.S. perspective, it’s been interesting to see accounts stumble over the simple addition of “men’s” or openly question whether America, reigning back-to-back women’s World Cup champions, will ever be good at soccer.
Of course, after these things are pointed out, some trolls pop out to stand fists on hips atop their own misogyny and declare that ‘no one cares’ about women’s soccer, or that it’s not popular enough to demand respect. This is clearly deep layers of insecurity talking, but also factually wrong. The USMNT’s final game of their 2022 tournament, a round of 16 match with Netherlands, drew an average of 12.97 viewers. In 2019, the USWNT faced Netherlands in the final in front of an average live audience of 17.27 million.
The obvious difference is a Round of 16 match versus a Final, but that’s also the point (and not the USWNT’s fault that the men are so far away from making this comparison more parallel). The men’s team isn’t near the level to compete much higher than one or two rounds outside of the group stage. Whereas our most successful team – the one with four World Cup trophies – is not only our most decorated, but historically the most consistently entertaining national team in soccer.
A side effect of all this blundering has been constant reminders of elite women footballers and a cranking up of the excitement dial for the 2023 tournament to 190. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed the explosive growth expected for women’s soccer after the 2019 women’s World Cup, and yet the NWSL still saw record viewership and attendance.
This time, with so many national teams so close to greatness – England, Brazil, France, Canada, Germany, Spain – and the USWNT in a transition phase with many questions yet to answer, the competition is going to be the best it’s ever been. The men’s World Cup may be reaching its peak, but the next World Cup cannot come soon enough.