Listen to this fact check:
After the United States Women’s National Team beat the Netherlands 2 to 0 to win the World Cup in July 2019, the fans of the nation’s soccer team were delighted. It also lent serious heft to the players’ demand for pay and treatment equal to that of the U.S. Soccer mens’ teams in a lawsuit that USWNT players filed on International Women’s Day — March 8, 2019 — to which the organization’s president responded publicly:
U.S. Soccer believes that all female professional athletes deserve fair and equitable pay. We will continue to work with and listen to the USWNT players to achieve our shared goals as partners. pic.twitter.com/p81qhlYVdR
— Carlos Cordeiro (@CACSoccer) March 15, 2019
And then, the backlash began when a chorus of people on social media began claiming that the USWNT victory was mitigated by the fact they had at one point been beaten by a team of boys under 15:
— Andrew Wilkow (@WilkowMajority) July 10, 2019
Why would the #USWNT deserve equal pay with men when they can be beaten by an under 15s boys team?
Pay on ability, reward on performance, promote on merit.
15 year old boys are more able than this team
Facts don’t care about your feelings. pic.twitter.com/iY4jziil1Z
— Katie Hopkins (@KTHopkins) July 8, 2019
Needs to humble herself pic.twitter.com/nLBlXf9E9Y
— Swanny🔴🇾🇪 (@ftbIswanny) July 10, 2019
In the context in which it typically appeared, people on social media (apparently piqued that they themselves are terminally unable to win any football tournament anywhere at any point) began to opine that football captain and player Megan Rapinoe ought to “humble herself” due to the purported defeat at the hands of boys. Another common take was that female athletes do not warrant salaries near those commanded by their male counterparts, pointing to the same purported defeat as proof.
People appeared to infer that just before their 2019 World Cup win, the USWNT had been handily beaten by a team of young boys. Some tweets linked to an article from April 2017, originally published by CBS Sports. That article’s headline, “FC Dallas under-15 boys squad beat the U.S. Women’s National Team in a scrimmage,” indicated that the event in question was not a match:
In preparation for two upcoming friendlies against Russia, the U.S. women’s national team played the FC Dallas U-15 boys academy team on Sunday and fell 5-2, according to FC Dallas’ official website.
It seemed that many newly self-anointed soccer pundits on social media relied on nothing more than the article’s headline and subheading to inform their views about the scrimmage between the Dallas boys’ team and the USWNT. But this article went on to describe the event as part of a structured practice undertaken primarily for the benefit and development of the boys’ team:
Of course, this match against the academy team was very informal and should not be a major cause for alarm. The U.S. surely wasn’t going all out, with the main goal being to get some minutes on the pitch, build chemistry when it comes to moving the ball around, improve defensive shape and get ready for Russia.
The game will, however, serve as a great anecdote for the kids on the FC Dallas squad to tell their grandchildren about one day. It also speaks highly of the level of academy development MLS teams are doing these days.
In context, the 2017 scrimmage between the Dallas boys’ team and the USWNT was described as a chance for the boys to learn from the women’s team. But even at that point, much of that contextual information was left out.
The U.S. Soccer Federation has a “Development Academy” program specifically for the training and conditioning of young athletes, in which FC Dallas readily participates:
U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy program is driven by the game and its players, coaches and referees. This game-centric approach allows for long-term development to occur through a deep understanding of what makes players successful around the world. As the sport of soccer grows in the United States, young players in our country need the proper environment to compete against the world’s elite. The U.S. Soccer Development Academy program provides the optimum developmental environment for the nation’s top youth soccer players, coaches and referees by emphasizing development through quality training and limited, meaningful competition. Currently, FC Dallas has seven boys Academy teams: U-12, U-12 South, U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16/17 and U-18/19. U.S. Soccer has also added a Girls’ Academy in 2017 with FC Dallas teams in the U-14, U-15, U-17 and U-19 divisions.
An April 2017 analysis published to football news site 90min.com (“Some People Think it’s Funny That the USA Women’s National Team Were Apparently Beaten by U15 Boys”) explained to American sports fans often unfamiliar with soccer that a scrimmage is not the same as a formal game. It began noting that information originally provided by the Dallas team had been re-reported elsewhere without context:
The original  post is now blocked by Dallas, most likely because a nice thing about youngsters having the chance to have an informal kick-about with World Cup winners and national heroes was later twisted into an attack by banter-obsessed pages and tweeters, suggesting that even a group of U15 boys could comfortably beat what is the best women’s team in the world.
Observing that both teams were “all smiles afterwards as both sets of players happily posed for a group picture, not the utter humiliation and embarrassment some seem keen on making it,” the piece explained the manner in which such scrimmages are handled by professional athletes and teen hopefuls:
It’s imperative to state that this ‘game’ between the USWNT and Dallas boys was not really a game at all. Before the official post was blocked it was described as a ‘scrimmage’ between the two squads, an informal practice.
With many of the Dallas boys unlikely to make it all the way to professional level, when would the chance to share a pitch, even a training pitch, with a genuine global superstar come around again? The answer for nearly all of them is undoubtedly ‘never’.
The fact that the women lost the ‘game’ means literally nothing.
The only thing that needs reporting here is that some young hopeful footballers were able to meet and ‘jam’ with some very famous other footballers. If you find the alleged score-line funny, try learning the facts, step into the 21st century and just plain grow up.
American fans unfamiliar with soccer or football mistook original reporting of the April 2017 scrimmage between the USWNT and the Dallas boys’ team as a sincere and serious game, rather than what it actually was: an informal match conducted as part of a larger program to train promising young athletes, which is what it was. When the FC Dallas under-15 team originally posted about the event they noted it was a scrimmage, but later reporting neglected to add in important contextual information about the event and the program.