Julien Balbontin/THE VARSITY

This summer, Canada plays host not just to the PanAm and Parapan Am games, but also to the FIFA soccer World Cup — no,  not the men’s competition, but the women’s. If your first instinct is to be a little disappointed that we won’t be hosting your international soccer favourites Messi, Renaldo, and Kaká here on Canadian soil, don’t worry, the women competing in this year’s FIFA world cup have just as much game.

When it comes to international soccer competitions, there tends to be a  worldwide gap in hype and enthusiasm for two “versions” of soccer — men’s and women’s  — when, quite frankly, they’re the exact same sport. At only three weeks into the competition, here are the six best reasons why the women’s world cup is just as worthy of your viewing time than its immensely popular male counterpart.

1. The players in the WWC are as, if not more, talented than their male counterparts.  

If you Google “best soccer players,” every single link that pops up in the first page (and probably quite a few more) will give you a fairly similar list of male players, many of whom you probably know by face and name. However, many of these lists are incorrect — not just according to personal opinion — but statistical fact. If you search for “top goal scorer,” Google immediately gives you Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldowhose international goal count just reached 55. In reality this achievement is far outnumbered by that of USA National Team member Abby Wambach, who currently has 183 international goals to her name. In fact, the top 7 female players all have more international goals than the higher male international goal-scorer of all time. Although an argument could be made that the gap is due to fewer emerging female superstar players than men, the point still stands that female soccer achievements remain unjustly invisible in the world of soccer reporting.

2. Canada and the US are killing it. 

Women’s soccer is the only faction of the sport where Europe isn’t in the lead. Lists of top female soccer players are largely composed of American — and yes — even Canadian players. Hope Solo and Abby Wambach, as well as the wildly popular Alex Morgan, are all household names in women’s international soccer. Even people who don’t watch women’s soccer still know Christine Sinclair from the Canadian team. In terms of lesser-known names, the Canadian team also has a lot of upcoming talent such as Desiree “The Destroyer” Scott, and the formidable Kadeisha Buchanan. Canada and the US have placed in international competitions where the men’s teams haven’t even come close.

3. Women don’t fake injuries. 

Admit it, sometimes when you’re watching men’s soccer competitions you can’t tell whether you’re watching a soccer game or an acting performance fit for an Academy Award. Maybe it’s because of there being fewer spectators, maybe it’s the artificial turf, or maybe women in professional sports are too busy doing their job to play diva — but in general, when a woman in soccer goes down, she gets right back up.

4. Soccer is about the game not the fame. 

It’s no secret that there is a massive gender wage gap in professional soccer. And I mean huge — even well known players such as US keeper Hope Solo still make under $100, 000 annually, and she’s still in the top ten highest paid female players in the world. By comparison, in men’s soccer the average salary in Major League Soccer was over $140, 000 a year in 2013, with top male players making in the millions. Female players work just as hard as the men, but for less play and worse conditions. The temperature of the artificial turf in the Canada-China match in Edmonton was reported to be 49 degrees Celsius before kickoff, whereas international men’s FIFA tournaments are always played on natural turf. As a result, women’s soccer provides an environment where every single player is there purely out of love for the game, and will make sacrifices to be able to keep playing. If you’ve ever dreamed of a world of soccer without all the materialism, ego, and endless bickering over the spotlight — it’s been here all along, in women’s soccer competitions.

5. The WWC gives female refs, sports journalists, and commentators a chance to shine as well.  

This point is fairly straightforward. Just watching one FIFA match will show you not just female players, but all female-refs — some sports networks also, occasionally, feature all-female commentary and post-game analysis. Only the coaches in the WWC are primarily men, a statistic that we will hopefully see evened-out in the near future.

6. Women’s soccer players don’t just play to win — they play to inspire.  

If you obsessively watched the 2002 sports classic Bend it like Beckham as a child, then you can imagine the joy of being able to watch the action in real life. Canada’s honour of hosting the Women’s World Cup is a sign to young Canadian girls everywhere that female competitions are worth watching and sports worth pursuing, just as much as men’s competition and sport is. This message has an opportunity to spread not only nationally, but worldwide, as the world cup has the potential to inspire young girls everywhere who dream of becoming future Sinclairs and Buchanans, that they too can be taken seriously on the field.

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