LYON, France -- There were plenty of chants of "U-S-A" as the World Cup final unfolded Sunday, but the clearly audible chant from the stands that greeted FIFA president Gianni Infantino as he prepared to hand out World Cup medals was different: "Equal pay."
U.S. players are currently suing their own federation for gender discrimination, even as the two sides prepare for a New York City parade on Wednesday.
FIFA will award $30 million in prize money for the Women's World Cup. The men received $400 million last year. Infantino said this week he wants to double the prize money for the women's tournament by the next edition in 2023, but the gap between the genders could actually grow with FIFA expected to award $440 million for the men's tournament in 2022.
As Golden Ball winner Megan Rapinoe embraced U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro after the American team beat the Netherlands to win its fourth World Cup title, the chant from the stands was a reminder that U.S. players had more than a trophy riding on success in France.
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"Everyone is kind of asking what's next and what we want to come of all of this," Rapinoe said afterward. "It's to stop having the conversation about equal pay and are we worth it and should we and the investment piece. What are we going to do about it? Gianni, what are we going to do about it? Carlos, what are we going to do about it?
"It's time to sit down with everyone and really get to work. This game has done so much for all of us. We've put so much into it. I think it's a testament to the quality on the field, and I don't think everything else is matching that. So how do we get everything to match up and continue to push this forward. Because I think at this point the argument we have been having is null and void."
Within moments of the final whistle, a spokesperson for the U.S. women's players association released a statement contending the 2-0 win and all that went with it was further proof that the men's and women's national teams should be paid equally.
"At this moment of tremendous pride for America, the sad equation remains all too clear, and Americans won't stand for it anymore," the statement read. "These athletes generate more revenue and garner higher TV ratings, but get paid less simply because they are women. It is time for the federation to correct this disparity once and for all."
The Wall Street Journal reported on the eve of the first U.S. knockout round game that U.S. Soccer and representatives for the 28 players involved in the ongoing lawsuit have agreed to mediation that will begin as soon as possible after the World Cup.
Players deferred to their legal representation throughout the tournament, saying they preferred to focus on soccer, but they didn't miss the significance of the crowd's reaction Sunday.
"It's cool because unless we get to the final, and obviously win the final, maybe that chant isn't being chanted," Tobin Heath said. "So I think in a lot of ways, this team has been, I guess you could call it, single destiny with this fight for equal pay.
"I think it's our responsibility, and it's something that we love to do."