Equity in the beautiful game

Three-time world champion U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team looking for level playing field

      After winning their third World Cup championship last summer, one would think the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) would do all they possibly can to appease the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT), but that hasn’t been the case. The two sides are locked in an ongoing labor dispute that could see the United States without a soccer team in the 2016 Olympics.

      The latest shots between the USSF and USWNT were fired Thursday when five of the most prominent players on the team, including co-captains Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn, forward Alex Morgan, midfielder Megan Rapinoe, and goalkeeper Hope Solo, filed a wage discrimination labor complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, against the federation claiming they generate equal revenue compared to the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT), yet are paid just 40 percent as much as their male counterparts, receive less for  bonuses, appearance fees, and per diems, suffer from lower-class travel and hotel accommodations, and have to deal with injury more often due to playing on artificial surfaces while men only play on grass.

      The women say their World Cup win and subsequent victory tour, which brought the team to New Orleans in December, brought in a $20 million increase in national team revenue in 2015 compared to the previous year. The federation is anticipating the women will be successful in Brazil as it has budgeted $2.3 million this year for a similar victory tour after the Olympics.

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      The federation has separate collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with the men’s and women’s teams. Women’s team members are salaried, with top players earning less than $75,000 a year and a $1,350 bonus per win. They receive no additional compensation for ties or losses. Players on the men’s team are only paid if called to the national team, but receive bonuses per game ranging from $5,000 for a loss to $17,625 for a win against a top-ranked opponent. Because of the number of games in a given year, this allows the men the opportunity to make substantially more than the salaried women. Additionally, male players who make the World Cup team receive a $68,750 bonus compared to $30,000 for female players. Historically, this has been due to FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, earning and paying out much higher figures for the men’s World Cup compared to the women’s World Cup. But with three world championships for the women compared to zero for the USMNT, whose best finish was in the round of eight in 2002, the ladies say it’s time for change.

      “The numbers speak for themselves,” Solo said. “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships and the USMNT get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”

      The women have argued that their deal expired in 2012, but they have played under a memorandum of understanding, which was signed in March 2013. They contend that they can cancel the MOU at any time. The federation says the MOU is a contract that runs through the end of 2016. The players’ union disagrees. In February, the federation filed suit to get a court to decide if the CBA remains in effect. The hearing is slated for May 25.

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      At issue is the coming summer Olympics in Rio and whether or not the members of the USWNT, the reigning and expected gold medalists, would go on strike for a better deal if one is not reached before the games begin in August. (The U.S. men’s team was eliminated from Olympic qualifying this week and won’t appear in Rio).

      “The reason the players have filed is because the USSF has made it clear that they will not consider equal pay [with the U.S. men] in the negotiations for a new agreement,” said Jeffery Kessler, who represents the players.

      “These athletes have probably the strongest case for pay discrimination against women that I have ever seen,” he said. “Because you have a situation where not only are their work requirements identical to the men’s requirements—the same number of minimum friendlies they have to play, the same requirements to prepare for their World Cups—but they have outperformed the men both economically and on the playing field in every possible way the last two years. So this isn’t a case where someone can come in and say the reason the men are paid more is because they are more economically successful or the men outperform the women or they’re not comparable in the same way.”

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      The federation released a statement on Thursday saying in was disappointed in the EEOC filing. “We have been a world leader in women’s soccer and are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women’s game in the United States over the past 30 years,” it read.

      “This is not only about equal pay – we get paid less than half of our male counterparts – but also equal treatment,” Morgan, the face of the USWNT, said in a Facebook post on Thursday. “We deserve to play in top-notch, grass-only facilities like the U.S. Men’s National Team, not dangerous turf fields. We want to have decent travel accommodations.

      “We think it’s high time for employers to truly address the inequality and do not only what is fair, but what is right,” she said. “We decided to do this for all of the little girls across the country and around the world who deserve to have a voice, and if we don’t leverage the voice we have, we are letting them down.”

      The ladies make very strong points. The USSF needs to find a more equitable pay structure for the two teams. It’s time for both to be on a level playing field.


Kicking & Screaming

United States Soccer Federation budget numbers show the discrepancies in pay between the men’s and women’s national teams.

Payment situation






Friendlies (per player, vs. teams not in FIFA's top 25, excluding Mexico)

win = $1,350

win = $9,375              tie = $6,250          loss = $5,000

Friendlies (per player, vs. teams ranked 11-25, excluding Mexico)

win = $1,350

win = $12,500            tie = $6,250           loss = $5,000

Friendlies (per player, vs. teams ranked 1-10 and Mexico)

win = $1,350

win = $17,625            tie = $8,125           loss = $5,000

World Cup roster bonus



World Cup qualifiers


win = $12,500            tie = $6,000         loss = $4,000

World Cup qualification


$2.5 million split among team player pool

World Cup per game payment



World Cup first round points bonus


$218,750 to team player pool per point earned

World Cup second round advancement bonus


$4.5 million split among team player pool

World Cup fourth place bonus



World Cup third place bonus


$1.25 million to team player pool

World Cup second place bonus


$6.25 million to team player pool

World Cup champion bonus


$9.375 million to team player pool

Player in World Cup training camp, not game roster



Per Diem

$50/domestic; $60/international

$62.50 domestic; $75 international

Sponsor appearance fee



Attendance ticket revenue bonus



Post-World Cup victory tour (number of games dependent on WC outcome; tour dependent on WC finish)

1st = $1.8M for team player pool  2nd =$6,750/player 3rd =$6,250/player





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