Our Five Favorite Memories from the Year the USWNT Changed the Game

It felt like everyone was watching the World Cup final this July. And when the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) won—claiming their second world championship title in a row and their fourth overall—it felt bigger than just a victory for their team. It was a victory for feminists around the world.

Here are five of our favorite memories from 2019—the year the USWNT changed the game.

The USWNT celebrating their World Cup Victory in New York City, at a Ticker Tape Parade devoted to their success. (Wikimedia)

#1: All They Do is Win

With their victory against the Netherlands in July 2019, USWNT brought home the gold and became the most successful women’s soccer team in the world, as the only women’s team to hold four FIFA World Cup titles. (For those keeping track at home, the U.S. men’s team currently has won zero World Cup competitions.)

#2: Scoring Goals and Filing Suits

Twenty-eight members of the USWNT filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in March of this year—on International Women’s Day!—accusing the organization of gender and pay discrimination. The team’s suit alleges that U.S. Soccer paid the women $1.725 million for winning the 2015 World Cup—but paid the men’s team $5.375 million for reaching round 16 in the 2014 World Cup.

It’s not their first time speaking out against the inequities they face because of their gender—but it was their most explosive attempt to expose soccer sexism yet.

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“Everyone is kind of asking what’s next, and what we want to come of all this,” World Cup Golden Boot winner (and star of our hearts and minds) Megan Rapinoe told AP during negotiations with U.S. Soccer after the team’s victory this summer. “It’s to stop having the conversation about equal pay, are we worth it, the investment piece. It’s time to kind of sit down with everyone and really get to work.”

In November, a federal judge granted the women’s team class-action status, in practice rejecting U.S. Soccer’s argument that because some of the team’s women earned more than their male counterparts over the years, there could not be gender discrimination—a major victory in their fight for pay equality. A trial date in their fair-pay suit has been set for May 2020.

#3: “Equal Pay! Equal Pay!”

After the USWNT won gold at the World Cup final in France, chants of “Equal Pay!” broke out among the stadium’s crowd.

A feminist rallying cry heard around the world, this was a victorious moment for the team—and for women fighting for their fair share everywhere. 

#4: “I deserve this! I deserve everything.”

USWNT Captain Megan Rapinoe became a certified feminist icon this year. From her activism for gender equality, to her unquestionable skills on the field, to her shock of lavender hair, we couldn’t get enough of the outspoken team captain in 2019. She was named FIFA athlete of the year. She was saluted by the Women’s Sports Foundation.

She stole our hearts.

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What made Rapinoe so enchanting was her unabashed celebration of her accomplishments and those of her teammates—from her now-famous on-field celebration, arms spread wide and a soft smile on her face; to her dancing to the podium to deliver her speech at the team’s post-victory ticker-tape parade. How amazing it was to see a woman know her talents and worth, and to openly take up the space she deserves. There’s joy in realizing your power,” she told TIME.

We agree with Rapinoe: She deserves this. She deserves everything. 

5. Dominating Headlines—and Taking Up Cover Space

“The U.S. women didn’t evoke the easy feelings of patriotism that come from waving a flag,” Sean Gregory wrote for TIME when the team was named Athelete of the Year, “so much as embody the evolving spirit of the more perfect union that it symbolizes.”

Women getting their due—you love to see it. This team deserves a TIME cover and more.

About

Maddy Pontz is a passionate feminist and storyteller with experience in social media direction, editorial and lifestyle writing and interviewing creative people who are doing cool things. She has a B.A. in Political Communication with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies from The George Washington University, and is currently the Community Engagement Editor at Ms. She loves bagel sandwiches and going for hikes.