Popularity in women’s sports continues sharp growth

The United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team keeps racking up the accomplishments this week.

Besides winning its third World Cup, the team also won the most TV viewers for any soccer game, men or women’s, in U.S. history.

Women’s popularity in sports is growing and it’s a growth that started over 40 years ago with the Education Amendments and Title IX.

“The improvement of the women’s game and how well they’re playing, whether it’s soccer, softball, basketball, whatever. It’s just leaps and bounds getting better,” said Leesville Road High School softball assistant coach and former college softball player Kate Dodson.

The massive audience pulled in by this U.S. women’s soccer team is a critical milestone for women’s sports.

“When the U.S. women won the World Cup in 1991 against China, very few people in the United States knew anything about it,” said Leesville Road High School soccer coach Paul Dinkenor.

It’s a much different time from the not too distant past when sports were only for men.

Just over 40 years ago, Title IX was passed and federally funded education programs and activities had to change their definition of equality.

“It has provided many more opportunities for them to further their sport and combine it with academics,” said Dinkenor.

Women in younger generations are seeing more level playing fields when it comes to high school and college athletics.

But when it comes to women making careers in sports, many say there is still work to be done.

“Soccer players, a lot of them are playing and they are playing pro, and they’re having to go out and have second jobs and whatnot just to make ends meet. And most of the WNBA players are I believe that way, unless they have the contracts and the endorsements and all of that,” said Dodson.

However the amount of support and coverage given to the U.S. women’s soccer team, is a shot in the right direction.

“There’s still a long way to go but it’s a whole lot better than it was,” said Dinkenor.

And it is clear men and women’s sports are not completely equal yet.

The U.S. women’s soccer team won $2 million for their World Cup win and the U.S. men’s team won $8 million for losing in round 16 last year.

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