Soccer

The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Has USMNT as Ally in Fight for Fair Pay

Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States

The United States Women’s National Soccer Team has been fighting for equal pay all year long. They officially began the crusade when they filed a lawsuit in March, and have carried it through to their World Cup victory tour. The United States Soccer Federation and the Women’s National Team are expected to meet in mediation this year to try and work out an agreement to settle this lawsuit out of court.

Carlos Cordeiro, the president of the USSF, released an open letter and a fact sheet on July 29 to show that the Women’s National Team wasn’t being paid unfairly, and that in fact they had been paid more than the Men’s National Team in recent years. This letter has caused an uproar among many fans including those criticizing its dubious numbers.

Carlos Cordeiro’s letter

Cordeiro attempts to come off as both defensive and cooperative in the same letter. So before even getting into the numbers, it feels disingenuous. A sentence about how the USWNT has been paid more than the men is used to try to discredit their claims that they are unfairly paid. The very next sentence claims that the USSF is still committed to working with the team to make improvements and to reach a new agreement. Why would improvements be necessary if things are fair?

The “fact sheet” is littered with hand-picked numbers and odd claims that hope to downplay the Women’s National Team’s legitimate complaints. Here are the two most egregious:

“Over the past decade, U.S. Soccer has paid our Women’s National Team more than our Men’s National Team. From 2010 through 2018, U.S. Soccer paid our women $34.1 million in salaries and game bonuses and we paid our men $26.4 million—not counting the significant additional value of various benefits that our women’s players receive but which our men do not.” During this span, the USWNT finished runner-up in the 2011 World Cup, won the 2012 Olympic gold medal, and won the 2015 World Cup. They earned those bonuses; had the Men’s team produced similar results it would have been paid considerably more.

“If the men and women ever did play in and win 20 friendlies in a year and were paid the average bonus amount, a women’s player would earn more from U.S. Soccer than the men’s player—the women’s player would earn at least $307,500 (WNT and NWSL salaries, plus game bonuses) and the men’s player would earn $263,333 (game bonuses only).” Adding the women’s NWSL salaries into this hypothetical is ridiculous; they don’t have the opportunity to play in other clubs around the world as the men do.

The U.S. Men’s Team were among those not buying it

The United States Men’s National Soccer Team was having none of this. They released a response in support of the Women’s National Team, pointing out that “The Federation downplays contributions to the sport when it suits them.” The response also states that “one way to increase profit unfairly is to refuse to pay national team players a fair share of the revenue they generate.”

On the topic of revenue, the USMNT also points out how unrealistic Cordeiro’s claim that the USWNT lost $27 million over the past 11 years was. “[Cordeiro] admits that is based on false accounting because the federation ‘traditionally’ does not count any of the sponsorship, television, or marketing money the Federation generates from USWNT and USMNT players and their games. What US sports team makes money if they don’t count television, sponsorship, and marketing revenue?”

The Men’s team closes out its response by saying that as it negotiates its new collective bargaining agreement with the USSF, it would like to see that the federation “would provide equal pay to the USMNT and USWNT players.”

Slow progress

USWNT legend Mia Hamm and Carlos Cordiero having a discussion
USWNT legend Mia Hamm and Carlos Cordiero having a discussion | Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images

FIFA reported last week that it’s council had unanimously agreed to expand the number of teams taking part in the Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 in 2023. With this change, the prize pool could potentially double from $30 million in 2019 to $60 million in 2023.

It is good to see that the women’s game is growing on the international level. Now the onus is on Carlos Cordeiro and the USSF to stop trying to create the illusion of equal pay and instead start taking strides to make it a reality.