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It's Time To Get Serious About Boosting Women's Soccer: Lawmakers

"It is time to give up these flimsy rationalizations and recognize that women’s sports are popular."

The time has come for women's soccer, and it's time for FIFA to take it seriously, according to U.S. lawmakers.

Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) and 26 of their congressional colleagues on Tuesday sent an open letter to FIFA President Sepp Blatter calling on soccer's global governing body to make good on its stated mission to “develop football everywhere and for all.” 

“FIFA and other corporate actors often cite the weak American and global market for women’s sports in order to justify these inequities,” Speier said in a statement. “This year the Women’s World Cup has proven that it’s time to shelve this false perception. There is ample evidence that FIFA has underinvested in women’s sports out of motives ranging from apathy to discrimination."

The full letter is below, but here are the four big things Speier and supporters are asking of FIFA: 

Equal pay for men's and women's teams

For actually winning the world cup, Team USA took home $2 million in prize money from FIFA. Team Germany, which won the men's tournament in 2014, took home $35 million. As CNN notes, "that works out to a little less than 6 cents on the dollar." 

Even more insulting, the men's teams that weren't even able to make it out of the first round still received four times as much as the championship women, according to CNN. For surviving the knockout round of the tournament, the U.S. men's team got $9 million. 

To recap: 

First-place finish by a women's team = $2 million

Eleventh-place finish by a men's team = $9 million

Update policies to reflect popularity of the women's game

It was no surprise that New York went bonkers for Team USA when they had their ticker tape parade in the city last month: The 2015 Women’s World Cup turned out to be the most-viewed soccer game in American history, with 26.7 million viewers turning in (as Spier noted in a statement, that's more than the 2014 Men’s World Cup, the NBA Finals, the World Series or the Stanley Cup).

Despite the huge demand for the women's tournament, TV coverage, promotion and corporate sponsorship were minuscule compared to the men's game. 

"It is time to give up these flimsy rationalizations and recognize that women’s sports are popular, and as the status of women worldwide improves, the sport will only become more popular," Spier said in a statement. "FIFA is positioned to become the engine of investment in global women’s soccer, and could easily do so if it were to decide that it was a worthwhile goal."

 Boost global investment in women's soccer

U.S. women's soccer legend July Foudy in a July 8 editorial for ESPN W said "our uproar" of the men's vs. women's pay discrepancy is misplaced, explaining:

FIFA will tell you the men get more because the market says so (cue the lava coming out of my ears). Of course it does because what, really, has FIFA done to help the market care about women's football?

Spain's women's team embodies FIFA's cultural lack of interest in the women's game, which needs to be fixed, Foudy previously told HuffPost. 

Look at Spain. Same coach for 27 years. One World Cup appearance and two appearances in the European Championships. They’re never demanding more. It shows the apathy," Foudy said.

Equal facilities for men's and women's players

Men play on natural grass. This year, women had to play on artificial turf. The surfaces, as photos show, are hardly equal. 

Players even filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against FIFA for making women play on a harder surface that is rougher on the body, changes the style of play and typically results in fewer goals scored. 

FIFA can't even get equality right on some of the little things: Unlike the men's team, this year's women competitors had to stay in the same hotel as their opponents. 

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