United States women’s national team forward Megan Rapinoe said that the upcoming Women’s World Cup feels like a “paradigm shift” but that women’s sports continue to face challenges in terms of equality.

“I think, just in general, women’s sports right now feels like we’re sort of out of just the dogged fight phase. Not that there’s not a lot still to fight for,” Rapinoe told reporters on Tuesday as the USWNT gears up for the training camp before the July 20 to Aug. 20 event in Australia and New Zealand.

Rapinoe and the USWNT led efforts for equal prize money between the men’s and women’s teams, which led to a new collective bargaining agreement, better benefits and more equal travel arrangements.

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“It feels like a real opportunity to blow the lid off just in terms of fanfare and media and sponsorships and the sort of larger business around this sport,” Rapinoe said, adding that it “feels almost like a ‘show up and show out’ kind of vibe.

“I think everyone is sort of hip to the game now and understands that this is not somewhere that’s just like, oh, we should cheer for the Women’s World Cup because that’s the right thing to do.

“It is actually terrible business if you are not tuning in, you are missing out on a large cultural moment. I think we know that the bottom line, equality is actually good for business, that is something special that the women’s game has and this is the premier women’s sporting event in the world bar none and this is a paradigm shift globally, not just in the U.S.”

USWNT striker Alex Morgan shared similar sentiments about the progress but stopped short of saying the USWNT had achieved all its goals.

“I think it just shows how far the game has come and obviously we still have a ways to go, but FIFPRO [the global players’ union] and players, individually and together [with] the teams, have been fighting for this, fighting for more equal prize money,” Morgan said.

Rapinoe added that she found it “infuriating” that other World Cup teams are still struggling for equality in pay and travel arrangements. Canada‘s team, for example, is in a fight with its federation over a new labor deal.

“Obviously a lot of us play with the Canadian players, so we sort of saw up front what it was like for them to go through what they went through earlier in the year and continue to,” Rapinoe added.

The USWNT is looking to win its third straight title but will do so with a squad that will see 14 players making their tournament debuts and several missing due to injuries, including captain Becky Sauerbrunn.

Coach Vlatko Andonovski, who will be experiencing his first World Cup as the team’s head coach, said he is confident the mix of youth and experience will lead to winning a fifth overall title.

“To have players like Rapinoe and Alex and Kelley [O’Hara] is just helpful because they can lead the rest of the group,” Andonovski said.

With Sauerbrunn out, Andonovski said he wasn’t ready to name a captain until he had all players in camp. However, midfielder Lindsey Horan hinted that she was ready to step up if given the armband.

“If I get the chance, appreciate being able to lead this team and take in every single bit of that because it does not come around a lot,” Horan said.

“And you being able to have this role, it’s most incredible thing in the world. You know, get to have this role on the best team in the world, one of the best teams in the world.”

The USWNT will open group stage play at the World Cup on July 21 against Vietnam before playing the Netherlands (July 26) and Portugal (Aug. 1).


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