World Cup Leading a Women’s Sports Renaissance
The FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off on July 20, when cohosts New Zealand and Australia open the tournament with matches in their respective national capitals. New Zealand hosts Norway in Auckland, and Australia hosts Ireland in Sydney. The United States begins its tournament the night of July 21 (U.S. time) against Vietnam.
The Women’s World Cup isn’t just the biggest event in soccer, or the biggest event of the summer. Forecasts ahead of the tournament expect the television audience to top two billion viewers, which would easily be the most-watched sporting event of the year. It would also represent a 79% increase over the numbers from 2019, when the World Cup was played in France
Across the globe, the men’s World Cup still draws more viewers. But in the United States, the women have often surpassed the men. More than 25 million viewers in the U.S. watched the women’s final in 2015, and more than 20 million watched in 2019. The major difference in those two events was the far more time zone-friendly final in Canada in 2015, compared to France in 2019 , which is six hours ahead of the East Coast.
The men’s final in 2022 had 16.7 million viewers in the United States.
This is also the first Women’s World Cup where the United States National Team will be paid the same as their male counterparts. In 2022, both teams signed a collective bargaining agreement that guarantees equal pay for match appearances, tournament victories, and revenue sharing. In 2019, the members of the U.S. women’s team received $110,000 for winning the World Cup. Had the men won in 2018, they each would have received $407,000.
The United States women’s team is also the most successful soccer team in the world, men or women, since the Women’s World Cup was first played in 1991. They have four World Cup wins, four Olympic gold medals, and they have nine CONCACAF Gold Cup titles.
Since the Men’s World Cup in 1990, no one team has won more than two World Cups. The men’s teams for Brazil and Argentina have each won two Olympic gold medals.
The United States women enter the World Cup as the pre-tournament favorites, with Bovada.lv listing them at +225. England and Spain are tied for the second-shortest odds at +500. The U.S. is also a heavy favorite to win their first match against Vietnam. They are paying -10000 to win outright, and -128 with a spread of 5.5 goals.
A First in Women’s Golf
The World Cup and the Women’s U.S. National Team are some of the most visible examples of the changing attitudes towards women’s sports. But they are hardly alone. Just this weekend, the U.S. Women’s Open was held at Pebble Beach, the first time since the 1950s that Pebble Beach hosted a women’s professional golf tournament.
The men’s U.S. Open has been held at the famous course on the Monterey Peninsula six times. This was the first time for the women, and it came a month after the Women’s PGA Championship was held at Baltusrol, which has been the site of nine men’s major championships.
The purse for the U.S. Women’s Open was a record $11 million, with $2 million going to winner Allisen Corpuz, the largest payout in women’s golf history. Just two years ago, the total purse at the Women’s U.S. Open was $5.5 million, and $1.5 million went to the winner.
Women’s Basketball Setting Viewership Records
When the WNBA held its draft on ESPN in April, there were 520,000 viewers, the most in two decades. A month later, when Brittney Griner made her return to the WNBA in the season opener, viewership hit a peak of more than 1 million viewers, more than doubling what the ratings were for the league opener in 2022.
The ratings boost for the WNBA has continued its trend through the rest of the season, and the league now averages more than three times as many viewers as it did in 2017.
The increase in interest in women’s professional basketball mirrors the increase in viewers for college basketball. April’s final between LSU and Iowa in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament drew 9.9. Million viewers, making it the most-watched women’s basketball game in the history of the sport.
The WNBA is currently in the third year of a deal with Amazon to stream 16 games per year. The league also signed a three-season deal with Ion Television in April for Friday night broadcasts to supplement its current deal with ESPN. All of the deals expiring after the 2025 season.
Bovada.lv has the Las Vegas Aces as the heavy -235 favorite to win the WNBA Championship in October.