Olympic soccer team captain predicts wave of investment in women’s sports after major contracts like Caitlin Clark

Making it to the Olympics is “a non-stop grind,” according to soccer star Lindsey Horan.

The 30-year-old co-captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team is gearing up for her third Olympics this summer after helping her team earn a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Now in her third Olympics, Horan will lead the 18-player roster, announced just last week, in Paris as the team aims to recapture a gold medal, one the U.S. has not seen since 2012. 

Lindsey Horan playing the Quarter Final match between Netherlands and United States during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Lindsey Horan playing the Quarter Final match between Netherlands and United States during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Photo by Laurence Griffiths via Getty Images

The call-up to the Olympic roster “still makes me super, super emotional,” the veteran tells Fortune, and while she describes the process as “exhausting,” it also comes with lucrative financial opportunities for the team. 

“A lot of our success in partnerships and brands always comes around major tournaments,” explained Horan. 

But while investment in women’s sports is growing, “there’s still a massive difference” between men’s and women’s contracts, admits Horan, whose status as the most expensive USWNT player nets her just $1.5 million in off- and on-field earnings, according to Forbes.

“You look at contracts for teams in Europe for men’s soccer compared to women’s and it’s insane,” the midfielder, who also plays for French club Olympique Lyonnais Féminin said. “That’s millions and millions per week that you’re looking at.” 

In 2022, five players from the USWNT reached an agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation over an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint they filed, which cited unequal pay and treatment.

Still, female soccer players at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, on average, earned just 25 cents for every dollar earned by men at their World Cup, a CNN analysis found.

According to Forbes’ 2023 list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, the top three players Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Kylian Mbappé each made $120 million that year. In comparison, the top 15 highest-paid women in the 2023 World Cup ranking collectively made less than a third of any of those individual players.

“It’s so crazy to look at some of these contracts and look at the investment in the men’s game,” Horan says. But she’s still optimistic that the rise in interest in women’s sports will enable a change.

“You know what Caitlin Clark was going to be making for her team in the [WNBA],” Horan says, referring to Clark’s starting pay of only $76,000 compared to the millions made by NBA rookies like San Antonio Spurs’ Victor Wembanyama, who earned nearly $12.2 million in his first year. 

“But then you look at the sponsorship deals that are overriding that.” To wit: the Indiana Fever rookie has booked multi-million dollar deals, including a rumored $28 million Nike deal, the richest sponsorship contract for a women’s basketball player in history.

The No. 1 pick in the 2024 WNBA draft has helped push the league to new highs, including a June 23 match-up against the Chicago Sky’s Angel Reese that marked the most expensive WNBA game on record, reporting a $271 average ticket price—more than three times higher than Sky’s average home game sale of $88, according to online ticketing platform TickPick.

“It’s an investment that we’ve talked about before, it just needs to keep growing and growing, which I think it will because you see the way that women’s sports is moving,” Horan says.

Sponsorships as a saving grace

Soccer is big business, and as the USWNT and its players continue to succeed on and off the pitch, brands are taking notice.

A prominent sign of the USWNT’s popularity is the record sales of their home jersey, Nike chief Mark Parker told The Wall Street Journal in 2019. It’s “the number one soccer jersey, men’s or women’s, ever sold on Nike.com in one season.”

Women’s soccer is also growing without the Olympic stage. In November 2023, Yahoo Sports reported NWSL’s four-year “record-breaking” broadcast deal worth $240 million with coverage across CBS, ESPN, Scripps Sports, and Amazon.

What’s more, research firm SponsorUnited found last year that the number of brands buying sponsorships or media in the NWSL since 2019 was growing at four times the rate of Major League Soccer.

Lindsey Horan holding a bottle of Coppola Wines.


“A lot of brands are…putting more and more investment which has always been the goal. So that’s really exciting,” says Horan, who endorses eight major brands, including cherry juice brand Cheribundi, Microsoft’s Xbox, and most recently, famed film director Francis Ford Coppola’s winery.

On her latest brand deal, Horan says, “Soccer is the love of my life, but those moments I get with my family having a glass of wine…I cherish them so much. I usually go for partnerships that I truly believe in…so it’s a really exciting partnership for me.”

Looking ahead at the 2024 Olympics

As Horan sets her sights on this month’s Olympic Games, she’s leading the youngest U.S. women’s team since the 2008 Beijing Games. 

With newcomers like 19-year-old Jaedyn Shaw, the average age of this year’s team is 26.8 years, four years younger than the 2020 Tokyo Olympic team. Half the players included are also first-time Olympians according to U.S. Soccer.

Horan, who boasts the longest streak of scoring for the national team every year since 2015, says she has “full faith” in the young players.

Her secret sauce for a winning mindset?

“To always exude confidence,” she told Fortune, crediting four years of work with her sports psychologist. 

“My main mentality, especially in the Olympics is you go out and win the game,” she said. It’s game by game.”

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top