Are the Players on the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Paid Fairly?

The United States Women’s National Team will be playing in the Women’s World Cup Final against the Netherlands this Sunday. This marks the third straight Women’s World Cup that the USA will be in the final, and they are going for their second straight World Cup victory and their fourth since the women’s tournament began in 1991.

Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe are becoming household names. The USWNT put women’s soccer on the map with their thrilling World Cup victory in 1999 and have hit new heights of popularity with their deep runs in 2015 and 2019. But despite all of this, the women’s team still finds itself on the wrong side of a severe wage gap with the men’s team.

What the USWNT gets paid, with comparisons to the USMNT

Christen Press celebrates her goal against England
Christen Press celebrates her goal against England | Photo by Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images

According to a report by the Guardian, the women on the US National Team each earn a $3000 bonus for every win they have during World Cup qualification games. Players on the men’s team, which plays 11 more qualifying games than the women, receive a $12,500 bonus for every win.

For successfully qualifying for the World Cup, Women’s National Team players receive a bonus of about $37,500 each, depending on how many qualifying games they participated in. Top players for the Men’s National Team earn a bonus of roughly $108,500.

During the group stage of the World Cup, players on the men’s team earn a $6,875 bonus per game, up to $85,599 for points earned in the group and a $195,652 bonus for advancing into the knockout rounds. The USWNT does not earn any additional bonuses for their performance in the group stage or for advancing to the knockout stage.

The winners of the 2019 Women’s World Cup will earn $4 million from FIFA, which split 23 ways would result in a $173,913 payday for the women on the roster. The 2018 World Cup winners were paid $38 million. In bonuses, the USWNT would receive an additional $110,000 each for lifting the trophy, compared to a $407,608 bonus that USMNT players would earn.

Fortunately for the 23 players selected to the 2019 World Cup team, Women’s World Cup sponsor LUNA gifted each player a $31,250 bonus this year. The company reported that this figure was to make up for the difference in bonuses that United States women receive for making the World Cup team ($37,500) vs. what the men who make the 23-man World Cup roster ($68,750) receive.

Fighting for equal wages

The women’s national team filed a pay discrimination lawsuit on March 8, 2019, against the U.S. Soccer Federation. In the lawsuit, the team outlined that if they played and won 20 exhibition games in a year, “female WNT players would earn a maximum of $99,000 or $4,950 per game, while similarly situated male MNT players would earn an average of $263,320 or $13,166 per game”.

Before the 2019 Women’s World Cup began, the USWNT players and the U.S. Soccer Federation agreed to settle out of court with mediation. These mediation meetings were scheduled for some time after the World Cup’s final on July 7 so that the team could focus on the tournament.

This conversation is far from over

It’s worth noting that the wage gap isn’t strictly a matter of sexism or discrimination. The men’s FIFA World Cup had an average of over 3 billion viewers in 2010 and 2014 and reportedly hit over 3.5 billion viewers worldwide in 2018. The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup hit record numbers of over 750 million viewers worldwide, impressive numbers in their own right but still paling in comparison to the men’s side. Men’s sports across the board average far more viewers and bring in far more revenue, and soccer is no exception.

But even with that concession made and the admission that without all of the numbers and facts we can’t possibly determine what is truly fair, the USWNT certainly seem to have a legitimate case. The United States’ 2015 final against Japan was the most watched soccer match in US history, for both men and women. Nike CEO Mark Parker reported on the company’s earnings call that the 2019 “USA Women’s home jersey is now the number one soccer jersey men’s or women’s ever sold on in one season.” A Wall Street Journal report found that US Women’s soccer games had earned more revenue from games than the US Men from 2016 to 2018.

There is no doubt that the United States Women’s National Team has been far more successful than the Men’s National Team (who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup) to date. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that this group is as popular (or even more popular) than the men’s team. Hopefully, the mediation meetings set to follow the World Cup are productive and result in the USWNT getting the pay raise they have earned with their production on the pitch.