Financial services giant Visa has added 33 women’s soccer players representing 27 countries to its roster of sponsored athletes ahead of this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, which will be held in Australia and New Zealand.
The new group of Team Visa athletes includes U.S. stars Catarina Macario, Sam Mewis and Mallory Swanson as well as Brazil’s Debinha, Canadian standout Christine Sinclair, Australia’s Ellie Carpenter and England’s Fran Kirby. Together, they represent the largest number of women’s soccer players ever sponsored by Visa.
Visa (NYSE: V), which was announced as the first global FIFA women’s football partner in 2021 and will serve as the exclusive payment service partner of the 2023 World Cup, made the announcement 100 days out from the tournament’s July 20 kick-off. The company also sponsors UEFA Women’s Football as well as several national teams including U.S. Soccer and the Mexican Football Federation.
“We’ve witnessed historic shifts for equity and equality in football in recent years, and Visa is committed to providing these resilient women with the tools and resources necessary to continue working for a level playing field,” Andrea Fairchild, senior vice president and head of sponsorships at Visa, said in a statement. “We’re proud to welcome this incredible group of athletes into our Team Visa family.”
Since 2000, Visa has supported 500 athletes, just over half of whom have been women.
The sponsorship provides crucial financial support for many of the athletes involved given the large discrepancies that remain between FIFA’s World Cup prize pools for the men’s and women’s tournaments. The $110 million to be divided between this summer’s participants marks a major jump over the $30 million awarded in 2019 and $15 million given out in 2015 but still trails the $440 million paid out in the 2022 men’s tournament in Qatar. FIFA hopes to reach equal pay by the next iteration of the tournaments but has not made that a guarantee.
While the U.S. women’s national team recently achieved pay equity after a years-long legal battle and professional salaries domestically, namely in the NWSL, have risen in recent years, that is not the case worldwide. Many players expected to compete in this summer’s tournament also hold outside jobs to support their soccer pursuits. Argentina’s Miriam Mayorga, for example, is also a doctor. Turkey’s Didem Karagenc doubles as a physical education teacher. Both are among the new crop of Team Visa athletes.
Sponsor support is all the more critical for female athletes in soccer and beyond. Visa’s program also provides philanthropic assistance, financial literacy tools and mental health and wellness resources.
Swanson, née Pugh, is a 24-year-old forward for the NWSL’s Red Stars and the U.S. women’s national team. The young star’s status for the World Cup is up in the air after she tore the patella tendon in her left knee in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Ireland. Her USWNT teammates Mewis and Macario have also been recovering from knee injuries this year.
Players from China, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, the Philippines, Panama, Poland, Ireland, Romania, South Korea, Sweden Switzerland and Vietnam are also represented in the Visa program.