Both sides in the U.S. women's soccer team's labor dispute, which entered the national spotlight Thursday with a wage discrimination claim filed by five players, will make their cases in the courts of law and public opinion in the coming weeks and months. There will be a blizzard of numbers, but this much is clear:
The U.S. Soccer Federation has been very good to the women's game.
It also can do a whole lot better.
A quarter-century ago, when most of the world sneered at women's soccer, the USSF created platforms for both young female players just looking to play and elite players looking to conquer the world. Was it equal to efforts for men's soccer? No way. But it was a start.
Hosting the 1999 Women's World Cup and, against common sense, staging the games in large stadiums, turned a competition that averaged 4,315 fans per game four years earlier in Sweden into a global event. Attendance grew by ninefold and, for the final at the sold-out Rose Bowl, the largest crowd for a women's sporting event in global history turned out.