US wins Women's World Cup: Rising gender equality in TV, marketability

Will the Americans' victory over Japan Sunday result in higher television ratings and more marketing of women's soccer going forward?

Elaine Thompson/AP
United States' Carli Lloyd, left, falls to her knees on the pitch as Japan's Rumi Utsugi, right, walks off after the U.S. beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015.

The United States women’s soccer team became World Cup champions for the third time Sunday evening, defeating Japan in a thrilling match that ended in a 5-2 score. In the game's first 16 minutes, the Americans scored four goals, with tournament most valuable player Carli Lloyd netting three of them.

Many final soccer matches, much like Super Bowls, tend to be something of a letdown but not this game. With a total of seven goals scored, Lloyd's three goals (otherwise known as a "hat-trick") –  including a goal from midfield that has everyone talking about the two-time Olympic gold medalist, the game was nothing short of riveting.

Sunday night’s win for the United States places them in the lead as the nation with the most Women’s World Cup wins. While the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) corruption scandal lingers, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, hosted by Canada, went off without a hitch.

This year, the average American television audience for each of the US women’s games was 5.3 million viewers. The semi-final match featuring the USA and Germany had an audience of 8.4 million viewers. Compared to the 2011 games in Germany, viewership of these games rose 21 percent among males between ages 25-51, but jumped over 90 percent among women in that same age group. 

The American television audience for the US women’s games this year was 121 percent higher than the viewership for the 2011 Women’s World Cup games, according to Fox. This compares to the total audience reach of the 2014 Germany vs. Argentina men’s World Cup final game which had an estimated 1 billion people. While data has yet to be released for the viewership counts of Sunday's final game, worldwide audiences for the World Cup hosted by Canada this year set records, with the semifinal matches drawing over 12 million viewers at times. 

While becoming the best in the world is prize in itself, winners of the FIFA World Cup do not walk away empty-handed. The USA women’s team earned a $2 million cash prize for their victory, double the amount that the Japanese women’s team earned in 2011. This is no small amount, unless compared to the $35 million that German men’s team took away for their victory in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, hosted by Brazil.

The reason for the difference in prize money may be partially attributed to the number of revenue-generating opportunities available during the men's World Cup compared to the Women’s World Cup. Thirty-two teams from five federations competed in the men's tournament last year. This year, 24 teams from six federations participated in the Women’s World Cup, up from 16 teams that competed in the 2011 tournament.

Most of the revenue for the game comes via advertising sponsorship from broadcasting networks. This year, the official US network broadcaster of the games, Fox, was scheduled to generate upwards of $17 million from World Cup sponsored content, almost three times the amount that ESPN, the broadcaster of the 2011 women's World Cup, made. However, this number pales in comparison to the $529 million generated by the 2014 men’s World Cup.

This year’s games mark the seventh Women’s World Cup, which FIFA began in 1991. The men’s World Cup began in 1930.

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