Opinion: The World Cup might be over, but we aren’t nearly done with USWNT’s stars

The World Cup has ended and the wildly popular and successful Americans are on their way home. Their remarkable story, however, is far from finished. Their next battles, and their next victories, will come not on a soccer field, but in the far more vital venue of American culture. U.S. women’s national team fans, I bring great news: we are not done with them, nor are they done with us.

A few predictions: they will win equal pay from the U.S. Soccer federation. They deserve to be paid more than the U.S. men, but they’ll settle for equality. After the month they just had, come on. If you were going to devise a strategy for this team to get to the bargaining table with maximum leverage, what happened over the last four weeks would be it, exactly.

They will not go to the White House. They will go to the U.S. Capitol, where they will be feted by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and more than 100 female members of Congress and 25 women Senators (and presumably some of the men too). Can you imagine the red, white and blue photo ops for those politicians? Campaign ads will be born that day.

STAR IN THE MAKING: One USWNT player is ready to take that next step

MAKING A STATEMENT: US women personified America with World Cup title

The USWNT will not be fading off into the sunset. Expect the players to be active heading into the 2020 Olympics and beyond. (Photo: Richard Martin, USA TODAY Sports)

Eventually, Megan Rapinoe will endorse someone in the Democratic presidential race. Giggle all you want, you French-, English- and Dutch-loving Donald Trump supporters you. Rapinoe is going to become as big a presence in our culture as she wants to be, and if she appears on a campaign stage with Alex Morgan and a few other teammates, that will not be an insignificant moment in the 2020 election.

One of the reasons the U.S. players will be so present in our lives is because they can’t go away. They have another tournament, right away. Hello, Tokyo. The soccer tournament at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games starts 54 weeks from today, and the CONCACAF qualifying process will be held in early 2020.

Major international women’s soccer goes dark for three years, then the calendar comes alive with the World Cup and the world’s second biggest women’s soccer tournament, the Olympics. I’m guessing that little bit of scheduling good fortune might come up in the team’s mediation talks with U.S. Soccer. Were anyone to let slip words like “strike” or “work stoppage,” that just might take care of things right then and there.

Because these players have become such a part of our lives, it’s impossible to imagine a U.S. Olympic team without them. They have made themselves both renowned and indispensable, which greatly enhances their bargaining position.

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