July 30 – The festering row between the US women’s squad and the United States Soccer Federation over equal pay has intensified after the team ridiculed suggestions that they earn more than the men’s national side.
The US women’s team (USWNT) began legal action against the USSF in March, four months before retaining the World Cup.
On Monday, with precision timing ahead of mediation, the USSF issued a letter saying the women’s team had been paid more than the men’s over the last decade.
U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said the federation’s analysis showed that female players were paid $34.1 million in salaries and game bonuses from 2010-2018, while the men earned $26.4 million during the same period. Women’s team members receive salaries plus bonuses, while the men receive only bonuses, though larger ones, according to the USSF figures.
Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the players, called the letter “a sad attempt by USSF to quell the overwhelming tide of support the USWNT has received from everyone from fans to sponsors to the United States Congress.”
The figures were released as the conflict moved toward mediation after US Soccer were accused of “institutionalised gender discrimination.”
“In the weeks ahead, we’ll focus on preparing for mediation and resolving this matter in the best interests of the WNT and US Soccer. I want you to know that US Soccer is committed to doing right by our players, and I’ve been encouraged by the public comments from players expressing their desire for a cooperative approach. I remain optimistic that we can find common ground,” Cordeiro wrote. “Together, I believe we can get this done.”
But Levinson was having none of it.
“The USSF has repeatedly admitted that it does not pay the women equally and that it does not believe the women even deserve to be paid equally. This is why they use words like ‘fair and equitable,’ not equal in describing pay,” she countered.
“The USSF fact sheet is not a ‘clarification.’ It is a ruse. Here is what they cannot deny. For every game a man plays on the MNT he makes a higher base salary payment than a woman on the WNT. For every comparable win or tie, his bonus is higher. That is the very definition of gender discrimination,”
“For the USSF to believe otherwise, is disheartening but it only increases our determination to obtain true equal pay.”
‘Ruse’ or not (opening negotiation positions might be more accurate), Cordeiro gives a transparent breakdown of the pay and benefits breakdown that US women receive, compared to their male counterparts. Ultimately comparing the men’s and women’s pay structures is not comparing apples with apples. While the men’s players rely on their income coming from their clubs, women playing at the highest level in the US are totally reliant on the USSF for the bulk of their income which Cordeiro says is a base salary of $100,000 plus a further $67,500 to $72,500 from the USSF if they play for a team in the WNSL in the US.
The USSF breakdown is printed below.
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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. There are several reasons for this:
- Different pay structures—Our men and women national team players do indeed have different pay structures, but this has nothing to do with gender.Rather, each of the teams have negotiated for different compensation models under their respective collective bargaining agreements. For example…
- Guaranteed salary for women—Under their CBA, the women have chosen to have a guaranteed salary; U.S. Soccer therefore pays each WNT contracted player a base salary of $100,000 per year.(In contrast, the men’s national team players have no guaranteed salary and are only paid for the training camps they attend and the games they play, plus game bonuses.) In addition, U.S. Soccer also pays WNT contracted players a $67,500-$72,500 salary for playing in the National Women’s Soccer League. (In contrast, we do not pay salaries for men who play in Major League Soccer or any other men’s professional league). In other words, U.S. Soccer guarantees WNT contracted players who also play in the NWSL a base salary of $167,500-$172,500 per year, atop which they can earn game and tournament bonuses. Again, although players on our Men’s National Team can earn larger bonuses, they are guaranteed nothing; they have a different contract structure.
- Guaranteed benefits for women—Above and beyond the guaranteed salaries mentioned above, U.S. Soccer provides our women players with a robust package of benefits that are not provided to the men. These benefits include fully-paid health, dental and vision insurance; severance; a 401(k) retirement plan; paid maternity leave; guaranteed injury protection; and assistance with childcare. Again, under their contract, our men’s players receive none of these benefits.
- Hypothetical per game comparison—The widely-reported claim that our women players currently earn only 38 cents for every dollar earned by our men is false. This claim is based on out-of-date numbers that do not reflect what our women’s players actually earn today. In particular, it overlooks the guaranteed salaries described above. The claim is also based on a hypothetical scenario – our men and women each playing 20 friendly matches in a year, which has never happened, and receiving the average bonus amount per game. That said, 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).
- FIFA prize money—Separate and apart from any funds controlled by U.S. Soccer, one of the biggest issues that women’s soccer faces is the difference in FIFA prize money with men’s soccer. The men’s and women’s World Cups generate vastly different revenue for FIFA, resulting in different prize money—prize money determined solely by FIFA. Indeed, when World Cup payments from FIFA are included, our U.S. Men’s National Team players were paid $41.0 million from 2010 through 2018 and our U.S. Women’s National Team players were paid $39.7 million.
- U.S. Soccer supports narrowing the gap with an increase in FIFA prize money for women—Most recently, last year’s FIFA Men’s World Cup awarded $38 million to the winning federation, and this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup is awarding $4 million to the winning federation. U.S. Soccer has and will continue to encourage FIFA to narrow this gap with an increase in the prize money that it awards to its Women’s World Cup champions as well as the total prize money it offers all women’s teams that compete.
INVESTMENTS IN WOMEN’S SOCCER
Over several decades, U.S. Soccer has invested many millions of dollars in women’s soccer—likely more than any other country—and we will continue to do so.
- Support for the National Women’s Soccer League—Over the years, U.S. Soccer has invested approximately $18 million in the NWSL, including the player salaries described above; assistance with marketing, broadcast and sponsorship agreements; and efforts to expand the league.This supports the growth and success of the league, which is now the longest-running professional women’s soccer league in American history.U.S. Soccer has no financial stake in any NWSL club or the league itself, but we make these investments because we believe that a strong and sustainable league is vital to the long-term growth of women’s soccer in America.
- Revenue from broadcast and sponsorships—Collectively, our women’s and men’s national teams help generate revenue for U.S. Soccer from corporate sponsorships and broadcast rights.Traditionally, however, these revenues have not been attributed directly to either the women’s or men’s team alone.These revenues from our sponsors are critical to supporting all aspects of U.S. Soccer’s mission to develop players, coaches and referees at all levels across our Federation, including support for our many women’s and men’s youth national teams, our Paralympians and scholarships for players from underserved communities.
- Support for Women’s National Team Games— One metric that can be measured directly is the revenue that our women’s and men’s teams generate, on average, game by game. From 2009 through 2019—a timeframe that includes two Women’s World Cup championships—the Women’s National Team has earned gross revenue of $101.3 million over 238 games, for an average of $425,446 per game, and the Men’s National Team has earned gross revenue of $185.7 million over 191 games, for an average of $972,147 per game.More specifically, WNT games have generated a net profit (ticket revenues minus event expenses) in only two years (2016 and 2017).Across the entire 11-year period, WNT games generated a net loss of $27.5 million. Nevertheless, U.S. Soccer does not view these as losses, but rather as an important investment in our Women’s National Team and in the long-term growth of women’s soccer.
- Increased investments in women’s youth development—In recent years, U.S. Soccer has significantly increased our investments in developing the next generation of women’s players, including the creation of our Girl’s Development Academy in 2016.In Fiscal Year 2019, we invested $14.4 million in men’s youth national teams and development programs and $13.4 million in women’s youth national teams and development programs, and we’ll continue working toward greater parity in the years ahead.In addition, we hope to host the 2027 Women’s World Cup here in the United States, which would be another tremendous boost to women’s soccer in our country.”