NYT - Sports

As Women’s Soccer Grows, So Does Its Competitive Divide

It is the same across much of Europe. Later this month, Chelsea will face Barcelona in the Champions League final. Barcelona’s domestic record this season is simple: 25 played, 25 won. It has scored 127 goals and surrendered only 5. In one 17-day stretch in April, it won consecutive games by scores of 7-1, 9-0 and 6-1.

Juventus has won all 19 of its games in Italy, scoring six against Florentia and nine against Bari. In France, Lyon has lost once all year — to Paris St.-Germain, the team that is on the cusp of denying Lyon a 15th title in a row. Even that is relatively unusual: Until that defeat, Lyon had not lost a domestic game since 2017.

None of that is to blame the clubs who have invested in their women’s teams. It is strange, in fact, that more teams cut off from success by the economic disparity in the men’s game have not poured more resources into their women’s sides, where glory comes much cheaper. Chelsea’s Harder, the most expensive player in the world, cost somewhere in the region of $300,000, which is not quite what Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang earns in a week.

The commitment from Chelsea and City and the rest has, without question, been not only a completely valid business decision, but a driving force behind the sustained growth of the women’s game, capitalizing on the boom generated by the success, in particular, of the 2019 World Cup. The task for the leagues, though, is to ensure that their competitions have breadth, as well as height.

In Continental Europe, the answer is simple. Spain’s top flight, for example, is not yet fully professional; the expectation is that, as more teams go full time, they will be better placed to start to reel in Barcelona. In England, the hope is that the imminent television deal will not only swell coffers across the board, but also encourage those clubs that have been wary of investing that they will see a return on their money.

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