The United States, if you didn't know, has one of the best women's professional soccer leagues in the world. It's called Women's Professional Soccer, commonly referred to as just WPS. Depending on who you ask, it's either the highest standard of domestic women's club football in the world or the second highest, behind Germany's Frauen-Bundesliga. Unfortunately, WPS is in trouble.
See, WPS is based on a model that is much different than the rest of the world of women's football. It's a full professional league, where all of the players are paid a living wage to play soccer full time. Some of them are not paid particularly well in comparison to major men's professional sports, but then again, neither are the low-level MLS players. Players like Marta and USWNT players are paid very well.
It's a very ambitious model, and based on the standard of play, it's an ethical one. Based on their playing abilities, there's no reason why male footballers should make a living wage to pay professionally while female players should not. Players like Marta, Abby Wambach, and the like have world class skill, and WPS is a very entertaining product. Still, it's hard to run a women's soccer league as a fully professional outfit.
Attendances in WPS are in the low four figures, but they are always in the four figures. The high end of attendance is around 4-5000 people. This means WPS has the highest average attendance in the world for women's football, which is no small feat. However, teams averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 attendees per match can't afford to pay all of their players. They need a boost.
Some more success for the U.S. women in the Women's World Cup can provide that boost. People say this about MLS and the men's World Cup every four years, but that is a farce. The United States men are not a legitimate threat to win the competition and a boost of a couple thousand attendees does little to put a dent in the salary of someone like Thierry Henry or David Beckham. The United States women, however, are a legitimate threat to win the World Cup, and an extra 2,000 attendees can mean the world to WPS.
If WPS teams are averaging 5,000 attendees per match, they can pay all the bills. That's all it takes.The longer WPS is in operation and paying both American and international players living wages to play a high level of competitive soccer, the better the USWNT gets and the better women's football as a whole gets. WPS isn't trying to take over the world, it's just trying to stay in business. If the United States women can pull off a World Cup victory, the increase in interest to see the members of the team play year-round for their clubs will likely increase enough to help WPS keep their doors open.
The men's World Cup is just about four years of glory for most teams. Bragging rights. Win or lose, the players on 90 percent of the teams will stay millionaires. For the United States, this women's World Cup could mean the difference between female footballers from the United States having and not having a job.