Why does the US Women’s National Soccer Team earn less than the men?

The FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019 was dominated yet again by the United States Women. They are consistently one of the best professional women’s teams in the world. This year marked their fourth World Cup win. They have more glory of success than any other team, in World Cup wins and the Olympics. Meanwhile, the United States Men’s National Soccer Team

The United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) has officially represented the United States in professional soccer since 1991. The players for this team, as well as the program, are offered significantly less money compared to the amount offered to the Men’s National Team. After the women’s fourth World Cup win this year, a social uproar began over the gender disparity of earnings in United States Soccer. Many of the star female players filed a federal complaint for unequal compensation. The background of the monetary distribution by the United States Soccer Federation further explains the women’s complaint between wages of the United States Men’s and Women’s National Teams.  

Over time for athletics there have been significant steps in promoting further equality. In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the Education Amendments which included Title IX. The Title IX legislation is one of the reasons why the United States Soccer Federation was influenced to make a Women’s League from the increased popularity and placers in the sport. This amendment brought more females up to the professional soccer stage by providing equal resources for women to play soccer in college. Title IX may not govern discrimination of sex for professional soccer, but it created a precedent of men and women’s programs having the same amount of resources. This precedent has led to the US Women’s National Team to speak out about the unequal distribution of money by the USSF to the men’s and women’s programs.

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) officially governs both the US Women’s National Team and the US Men’s National Team. According to their official website, the USSF was founded in 1913. It was one of the first programs to be affiliated and recognized with FIFA, the highest governing body of international soccer. The USSF governance gives them the power to invest and allocate money to both teams. 

The USSF determines how each team’s pay is defined, therefore is a major factor to how the wage disparity exists. The USSF created different compensation structures for the men’s and the women’s collective bargaining agreements – the contracts between the players and the federation to regulate payment, conditions, benefits, etc. The Men’s National Team’s collective bargaining agreement overall contains a larger amount of money to distribute from the USSF than the contract for the women’s program. The amount of money the USSF allocates to each program affects the quality of the programs including new equipment, travel spending, wages, venues, media, etc. 

The US Women’s National Team collectively bargained with the US Soccer Federation to receive a pay structure “that guarantees them salaries,” Boehm reported in an article for Reason, with additional “severance pay, medical benefits and some performance based bonuses”. The purpose of the women creating a different style in distribution of money from the USSF was to have security in their occupation. Their agreed upon base salary is $72,000 per year with additional bonuses for each win of $1,350. In 2017, both parties ratified their current agreement containing improvements from their previous one which will last through the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

In contrast, the US Men’s National Team receives a “pay for play” style of earnings under their signed agreements. This structure is performance based. They collectively bargained differently than the women with the US Soccer Federation in which they do not have a predetermined salary or benefits. The break-down of the pay for play structure is as follows: each game played (20 friendly games) the men receive $5,000 win or lose. On top of the $5,000, every game they win they receive an additional $3,166 as a win bonus. If they lose all 20 games they will still receive $100,000 for playing. This is $28,000 more than the women’s base salary, even for losing.

The United States Soccer Federation currently defends its position on the difference in payment that the two programs are inherently different. The difference in pay has more of the contracts is not merited by the basis of sex. Instead, the US Soccer Federation looks at the revenue difference the Men’s National Team brings in compared to the women. The men generate more attention to from a longer standing program which has had more time for investment to pour into. The Men’s National Team has more fans and venues for games than women creating more revenue for the Federation. The women have a newer program, therefore are still gaining recognition for investment.

FIFA, the governing body over global tournaments, supports 211 affiliated soccer programs internationally. In the 2018 Men’s World Cup, FIFA gave $400 million in prize money; however, in 2019 the Women’s World Cup they gave only $30 total in prize money. The US Women’s National Team received a mere $4 million of that for gold. A response to the disparity in allocation of money largely deals with women being added to FIFA decades after the men. Since the Women’s World Cup sporting event is not even 30 years old, the revenue and viewer attraction from it generates less money compared to the Men’s World Cup. Therefore, there is less money to give to winners from their revenue. FIFA’s response is similar to the USSF reasonings stated above behind investing less money to the US Women’s National Team.

According to Business Insider, the USSF gave each player of the Women’s National Team $75,000 for winning the 2015 World Cup. In the article, Gaines declared if the men won a World Cup the USSF “would give more than four times larger [than the women’s] at nearly $400,000.”

Ultimately, the United States Soccer Federation argued against the women’s federal complaint that one cannot compare the two programs directly. They claim there is not a wage gap because they are completely different programs and pay structures to analyze together. 

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