That is my theory, anyway, based, admittedly on a very small ethnographic study. Still, I think I'm right. Girls, yes. Women, not so much.
I have seen part or all of the last three matches played by the American women in the World Cup. Each of those matches has seen an increase in viewership in the United States. But in each case, the women I was with had no interest in the match or its outcome.
Tonight, at my house, there were 9 people here to watch the match-- 2 women, 3 men, and 4 boys. While the boys watched USA vs. Germany with varying degrees of interest and the men were glued to the entire match, the women sat outside away from the television and talked. I know that is not a significant sample, but I still think my theory is right. Here's why:
1. The level of play in women's soccer is high enough that men who love to watch men play enjoy watching the women play, too. That is not always the case, even in professional women's basketball (not my judgement, that comes from my sports fiend friends).
2. Women, at least those past 40, did not grow up with much soccer contact, so they often don't really understand, or even connect with, the game.
3. Girls, on the other hand, have had nationwide success with soccer, starting with their schooling and pre-schooling, so they are all about the USA women's team.
4. Men are more likely to plug into "patriotic" notions, are more likely to care about such U.S. vs. The World kinds of things, and, with the 4th of July approaching, the idea of an American team moving on to a finals showdown on July 5th is like red, white, and blue candy.
5. Since the start of the Women's World Cup, the American women have made it to at least the semifinals every single tournament. Their program has been more successful than the men's program from the beginning, and male viewers have figured that out. If you like World Cup soccer and you are a U.S.A. fan, you get to hang with the women longer.
6. Men like to watch in-shape women. While Team USA is not necessarily filled with "lookers," I do have friends who hold "sports crushes" (a term I just invented) on Hope Solo and Alex Morgan.
7. Women, on the other hand, are, perhaps, not as inclined to cheer on younger, more in-shape women. And that's all I have to say about that.
8. Soccer is growing in the U.S. at all levels, and the Women's World Cup takes advantage of that. Certainly the women are deserving of a loyal following in their own right, but there is little doubt that their tournament feeds the needs of men who don't want to have to wait four years for another World Cup.
9. Some early members of the U.S. women's team established themselves as sex symbols, and there continues to be a residual effect from that. Again, small study, but men can name and identify more players on the women's team then they can on the men's.
10. Men typically like sports, watching sports, all sports, more than women do, and the Women's World Cup is the flavor of the moment, positioned in between the end of the NBA and NHL, before football, and during the dog days of seemingly-inconsequential baseball.
So, yeah, it will be cool when America's women get behind America's women's team in the world's sport, but that isn't likely to happen for some time. Too many societal conditions have to change. Or, maybe I'm just wrong about all of this. I do know that the other men and I are already making plans for the final on Sunday. Our wives, well, God bless them, they will probably have to come along to support us more than the team.