Gone are the days of having to scour the internet, often unsuccessfully, to find merchandise for the United States women’s soccer team.
In another sign of the growing economic power of women’s sports, the United States Women’s National Team Players Association is launching an online store on Thursday. In addition to jerseys, the site will sell everything from custom t-shirts and tote bags to children’s items and Megan Rapinoe action figures.
“It’s just that we continue to invest in ourselves,” Annie Reid, USWNTPA director of strategic partnerships and business, told USA TODAY Sports.
“We put this out there so people could have a one-stop shop instead of going to various outlets and having 40 different carts open,” Reid said. “Nobody likes that.”
What fans like even less is not being able to find any type of merchandise, a long-standing issue for the USWNT and other female teams and athletes.
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The retail market, like media coverage and sponsorship, has long been geared almost exclusively to male teams and male athletes. With such limited storage space and production capacity, it has been almost impossible to find products dedicated to women’s sports and the athletes who practice them, even though they have grown in popularity.
Angel City FC co-founder Kara Nortman said she was left empty in her hunt for specific USWNT player shirts during the 2015 World Cup. the USWNT was not available in the cut purchased most often by men.
Recognizing there was unmet demand, Alex Morgan, Kelley O’Hara and Allie Long created t-shirts ahead of the 2019 World Cup and sold them online. In less than 30 days, they generated more than $1 million in sales, Morgan told The Wall Street Journal.
And after the USWNT won the 2019 title — their second straight and fourth overall, for those counting — Nike struggled to keep pace with demand for merchandise featuring the fourth star.
“You hear more fans asking that. You look in social media, it happens all the time and has been very prevalent and acute in recent years,” Reid said. “At an event, the #1 question you see in social spaces is, ‘Where can we find the gear?’ Or, ‘How come we can’t find any merchandise?'”
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The American Women secured the rights to their “name, image and likeness” as part of the 2017 collective bargaining agreement and partnered with what is now OneTeam Partners, the group licensing company that began as a joint venture between the NFL and Major League Baseball. player associations. (The NWSL Players Association announced Wednesday that it also has signed with OneTeam.)
In the first year after obtaining its NIL rights, the USWNTPA signed agreements with more than 30 licensees. It currently has partnerships with companies like EA Sports, maker of the popular FIFA video game; Fanatics, which sells customizable jerseys; Panini, maker of trading cards; and Dick’s sporting goods.
USWNT merchandise will still be available to all individual licensees, Reid said. The online store simply increases the market.
“This is meant to be in addition to what’s out there,” Reid said. “We don’t want to reduce the spaces where fans can find things, we want to expand them. There just isn’t enough retail space. … We want to make sure there’s more space. places where fans can find what they want.
The online store will also allow the USWNTPA to respond quickly during large events and produce game- or time-specific merchandise. Had he existed during the 2019 World Cup, for example, you can bet there would have been mugs with Morgan sipping tea after the USWNT’s semi-final win over England. Or t-shirts with Rapinoe doing her now iconic goal celebration.
Already, there’s merchandise touting the USWNT as the “America’s Soccer Team” and, in a nod to their long fight for equal pay, T-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with the slogan ” Pay Women”.
That’s the point, after all.
While the site will be a convenience for fans, especially with next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, it’s also another way for the USWNT to show its value and maximize its value. In addition to the base compensation they receive from licensees, USWNTPA members will receive additional royalties for all products sold on the site.
USWNT-specific commercial rights are still new, so Reid said she couldn’t give a dollar estimate of what players could earn at the site. But anecdotal evidence suggests it will provide a significant revenue stream.
There is money to be made with women’s sport. There always have been. There was simply not the means or the desire. Let the USWNT show how it can and should be done.
Follow USA TODAY sports columnist Nancy Armor on Twitter @nrarmour.