For the first time, soccer players representing the United States men’s and women’s national teams will receive the same pay and prize money, including at the World Cup, under landmark agreements with the US Soccer Federation that will end years of litigation and bitter public disputes over what. constitutes “equal pay.”
The revised pay structures are part of collective bargaining agreements with each team announced Wednesday, three months after a group of top female team players settled against a gender discrimination lawsuit against US Soccer and six months before the men’s team is set to take on the field at the World. Cup in Qatar.
In addition to guaranteeing men and women players the same paychecks for taking part in international matches, deals include a provision, which is supposed to be the first of its kind, through which teams will pool unequal payments they receive from FIFA, world soccer’s governing Body, participating in the World Cup. Starting with the 2022 Men’s Tournament and the 2023 Women’s World Cup, that money will be shared equally between members of both teams.
“No other country has ever done this,” US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said of the deal to equalize the World Cup payments. “I think everyone should be really proud of what we’ve accomplished here. It really, really is historic. “
The split of prize money is a notable concession by the American men, who have been awarded the bulk of the multimillion-dollar payments US Soccer receives from FIFA each time the team has played in the World Cup. The agreement to pool the money with the women also removed what players and federation officials had long agreed to a single major obstacle to a resolution of the equal pay debate. It represents a potentially huge windfall for the women’s team, whose World Cup prize pool is a fraction of that paid to men’s teams every four years.
Under the new deals, which run through 2028 and cover the next four World Cups, dozens of top men and women players have been asked to review internal presentations by The New York Times that they can expect to collect about $ 450,000 of average annual payouts from the US. Soccer – and possibly more than double that in the successful World Cup years.
The difference in compensation for men and women has been one of the most contentious issues in soccer in recent years, especially after American women won consecutive World Cup championships, in 2015 and 2019, and men failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament. Over the years, the women’s team, which includes some of the world’s most recognizable athletes, had escalated and amplified its fight in court filings, news media interviews and their sport’s grandest stages.
The dispute has always been a complex issue, with differing contracts, unequal prize money and other financial quirks muddling in the distinctions between pay men and women teams and the ability of complicating national governing bodies like US Soccer to resolve the differences.
Read more on the World Cup
Yet the federation has finally committed to a fairer system. To achieve this, US Soccer will distribute millions of extra dollars to its best players through a complex calculus of increased match bonuses, pooled prize money and new revenue-sharing agreements that will give each team a slice of the tens of millions of dollars in commercial. Revenues that US Soccer receives each year from sponsors, broadcasters and other partners.
Labor peace will be expensive: US Soccer has committed to single-game payments for most matches of $ 18,000 per player, and as much as $ 24,000 per game for wins at certain major tournaments – cementing the status of US men and women Two of the highest-paid national teams in the world. And the Federation will surrender as much as 90 percent of the money it receives from competing for FIFA in the World Cup to men’s and women’s players on those teams; Based on past performances and union projections, that could result in a shared prize pool of more than $ 20 million as soon as next year.
But despite its cost, the new equal pay policy has incalculable value for all concerned, as it will end a six-year battle that battered the federation’s reputation; threatened US Soccer’s relationship with important sponsors; And the millions of dollars in legal fees on every side of the fight.
As the sides battled in courtrooms and negotiating sessions, the dispute also produced sometimes caustic exchanges about personal privacy, workplace equality and basic fairness, and a disparate chorus from drew support (and second-guessing). presidential candidates, star athletes and Hollywood celebrities – not all of them are supportive of the women’s campaign for pay equity.
Resolving the fight amicably, rather than in court, could make it easier for the federation to attract new sponsors and rebuild bonds with its most prominent players. And by offering the teams a share of its commercial revenues, US Soccer has definitely incentivized its biggest stars to act as partners in finding new ways to increase those revenue streams.
“There is no denying that the money that we have to pay our national teams is money that has not been reinvested in the game,” Cone said when asked about the effects of the new contracts on US Soccer’s broader mission. “And people can take that perspective. But the way I look at it is that our job is to try to figure out how all three groups can work together to grow the pie so that everyone is benefiting. “
Cone and both teams of representatives said the agreements offered a model for those looking to restructure a multibillion-dollar sports industry in which generational benefits mean money, exposure and opportunities still flow disproportionately to men’s sports and male athletes.
“These agreements have changed the game forever here in the US,” Cone said. “And they have the potential to change the game around the world.”
Yet while resolving the equal pay battle will have tremendous symbolic and financial value in the United States, it is unclear if new deals will be more aspirational than replicable globally.
Since the American women began pressing their equal pay fight in 2016, soccer federations from Norway to Australia to the Netherlands have moved to pay more nationally. But all of those deals seek to equalize matchday pay rates that are far lower than the figures US Soccer pays to its senior teams. And all of them favor the big pay gap in soccer: the huge difference in the World Cup bonuses paid to men and women by FIFA. The 24 teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, for example, competed for a prize pool of $ 30 million; The 32 men’s teams that will compete in Qatar in November will split $ 450 million.
A federal judge dismissed a federal judge dismissing one of the core claims of top female athletes who sued the federation for gender discrimination after 2020. Cone, a former women’s national team player recently elevated to the role of US Soccer’s volunteer president, greeted that decision with an olive branch at the time, pressing for renewed settlement talks. But she added pressure on the men’s players to help bridge that gap last fall when she said US Soccer would not agree to new contracts with either team that did not equal World Cup prize money.
Walker Zimmerman, a defender on the men’s team and a leader in its players’ union, said he and his teammates had then come to the realization that “there was no other way to get this done.” Persuading his teammates to ratify deals that were eventually reached “was not always the smoothest,” he acknowledged.
“Trying to voice what you believe should happen, what’s possible, what’s right – those conversations are difficult,” Zimmerman said. “But at the end you have a group of players on both the men’s and women’s side who came together and got it done.”
Given Wednesday’s spirit of dedication, the payments to the US men and women will not be completely equal: Injuries, coaching decisions and even the number of games played by each team will continue to affect what individual players can earn. But for the first time, both teams and the federation will be able to agree that the rate of pay, at least, will be equal.
“We still have two separate contracts,” Cone said, “but everything is economically exactly the same.”