How Pay Structure Differences Affect U.S. Soccer Teams

This summer, the U.S. Women’s national soccer team captured the hearts and minds of soccer fans throughout the United States. They won the World Cup in convincing fashion. It was their second consecutive World Cup victory and fourth overall. 

One issue raised this summer as the women’s team continues to dominate and the men’s team struggles is the difference in pay. The women’s team is the best in the world while the men failed to qualify for the last World Cup.

The argument is that the women’s team should make more based on their far superior results. The women’s team recently sued U.S. Soccer because of this. So what are the pay structures used by the two teams? 

Differences in men’s and women’s soccer team pay structure

When the U.S. women’s team won the World Cup this past July, their fans greeted them with chants of “Equal pay!” 

While some argue that the women should make more money than the men based on their play on the field, it is the U.S. Soccer’s position that the women already do. Here’s a quote from an Albuquerque Journal story on the matter: 

“According to a letter released Monday by U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro, the federation paid out $34.1 million in salary and game bonuses to the women between 2010 and 2018 as opposed to $26.4 million paid to the men. The total does not include the value of benefits received only by the women, like health care.” 

The article points out that the pay structure for each team is different. This means making a comparison is difficult. Women receive a base salary of $100,000 per year along with an added $67,500 to $72,500 for playing in the National Women’s Soccer League. Men receive pay based on when they’re called up as well as performance. 

In short: the women’s team receives a salary no matter what while the men’s team get paid only when they appear on the roster. 

Analyzing the men’s and women’s soccer team pay 

The main argument in favor of paying the men’s team more is that they generate more revenue than the women’s team. The Washington Post found, however, that this isn’t necessarily true anymore

“In the year following the 2015 World Cup win, women’s games generated $1.9 million more than the men’s games. And in recent years, the men’s revenue tally also includes the fees that opposing teams pay in order to play the United States.”

The Post story points out that based on the bonuses for the men’s team, if both teams played the same number of friendly’s in a given year, the men would earn more. Also, while the women are guaranteed a base salary, the men’s team is guaranteed a bonus win or lose. 

In a nutshell, this means that the women’s team needs to excel to earn close to what the men’s team makes just for showing up. 

How will this dispute end? 

One major issue that U.S. Soccer needs to clarify is exactly how much the men’s and women’s teams are receiving in bonuses. That wasn’t released in their data dump. 

Also, U.S. Soccer came to these collective bargaining agreements separately with both teams. Why weren’t these negotiations coordinated? If they’re not coordinated, why shouldn’t U.S. Soccer exercise some transparency in making details of the negotiations public?

Until U.S. Soccer is willing to let the public peek behind the curtain as to how these agreements are made and how much money they contain, everyone will have a difficult time buying the party line. 

Right now, based on the current pay structures, the women’s team’s pay is tied much more closely to performance. In the future, perhaps a move towards both the men’s and women’s team having similar pay structures would be a reasonable outcome. That way if the men earn more than the women, it would be due to achieving superior results.