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The Women’s World Cup is a week away


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The biggest event in women’s soccer kicks off next Thursday in Australia and New Zealand with three matches, including Canada vs. Nigeria at 10:30 p.m. ET. Here’s a catchup on some recent stories surrounding the tournament:

Finally, everyone is getting paid.

Last year, 150 players from 25 different countries pushed FIFA to make the prize money it offers for the Women’s World Cup equal to the men’s. They also asked for some of the cash to go directly to players, rather than into the hands of national federations to parcel out according to their deals with teams. Those agreements sometimes aren’t honoured or, as in the case of the Canadian women’s team, fall short of what the players believe they deserve.

The women didn’t get everything they wanted, but they won huge gains. FIFA nearly quadrupled its total Women’s World Cup fund — which covers prize money, team preparation and payments to players’ clubs — from $40 million US in 2019 to $152 million. Some of that increase is due to the tournament’s expansion from 24 teams to 32, and the women’s prize pool remains a long way off from the $440 million FIFA doled out for last year’s men’s World Cup in Qatar, but that’s still a big change from four years ago.

Perhaps more importantly, FIFA agreed last month to guarantee, for the first time, that a percentage of the women’s prize money will go straight into players’ pockets. All 732 of them in the upcoming tournament will get at least $30,000, with the opportunity to earn more based on how far they advance past the group stage. Players who make the round of 16 get $60,000, those who reach the quarterfinals $90,000, semifinalists at least $165,000 and runners-up $195,000. The 23 players on the title-winning team will each receive $270,000.

That’s a lot of money, especially considering some of the players in this tournament aren’t even full-time pros and FIFA reported last year that the average annual salary in women’s soccer is just $14,000. Read more about the Women’s World Cup pay bump here. 

What’s with all the knee injuries?

That’s what many players are asking after some big names were sidelined for the Women’s World Cup with torn ACLs. Those include Canada’s Janine Beckie, rising U.S. star Catarina Macario, Netherlands forward Vivianne Miedema, and England’s Leah Williamson and Beth Mead.

While ACL tears are pretty common in men’s pro soccer and the NFL, studies have shown that women are up to eight times more likely than their male counterparts to suffer the injury in sports involving high-speed changes of direction. One theory in the medical world is that women’s bodies, in general, may exert more force on the ACL. But some players want a deeper investigation into whether the epidemic of ACL tears is due to disadvantages women face relative to the men, including medical care and field conditions. Read more about women’s soccer’s knee injury problem here.

It’s Megan Rapinoe’s last dance.

The American star announced Saturday that she’ll retire at the end of the National Women’s Soccer League season this fall, meaning her fourth World Cup will be her last.

Rapinoe, 38, helped the U.S. win the past two World Cups and Olympic gold in 2012. At the 2019 World Cup in France, she won the Golden Ball for best overall player and the Golden Boot for top scorer after potting six goals in the tournament, including a penalty in a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final.

Off the field, Rapinoe, who is engaged to women’s basketball icon Sue Bird, has been an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights and equal pay in women’s soccer. She also gained attention as a vehement critic of Donald Trump during his time as U.S. president. Joe Biden last year awarded Rapinoe the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honour.

This will also be the final World Cup for aging Brazilian star Marta. The six-time world player of the year is her country’s all-time leading scorer with 117 goals but has never lifted the World Cup in five previous appearances. Marta, 37, might come off the bench for Brazil after a torn ACL in March 22 resulted in an 11-month absence from the national team.

Canada is turning its focus to the field.

The Olympic champions’ bitter labour dispute with Canada Soccer continues, and the players’ wish for a World Cup pay deal with the federation before they left for Australia was not fulfilled. But it sounds like the latter could happen any minute as captain Christine Sinclair said this week that an agreement on World Cup compensation is “pretty darn close and I think it will be done with by the time this tournament starts.”

That would be a relief for a team under pressure to show that its surprising Olympic gold-medal victory in 2021 was no fluke. Despite reaching three consecutive Olympic podiums, the Canadian women have struggled to break through in the World Cup, losing in the quarterfinals as hosts in 2015 and in the round of 16 four years ago in France. But, after unveiling its World Cup roster on Sunday, the world’s seventh-ranked team is now relishing the chance to prove itself on the sport’s biggest stage, writes CBC Sports contributor Shireen Ahmed.


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