News and Commentary

U.S. Women’s Soccer ‘Equal Pay’ Agreement Includes Men’s Team Now Subsidizing Their Pay
Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States celebrates after scoring a goal during a game against Korea Republic at Allianz Field on October 26, 2021 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

In what is being called an “equal pay” agreement between the U.S. Soccer Federation and the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams, the men’s team will soon begin subsidizing the women’s team’s bonuses with their own international prize money.

The landmark agreement was reached after years litigation between U.S. Soccer and members of the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT), who claimed they were unfairly paid differently than the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT). The women made this claim even though each team had their own separate collective bargaining agreement about their pay structure.

To achieve “equal pay,” according to The New York Times, “U.S. Soccer will distribute millions of extra dollars to its best players through a complicated 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 U.S. Soccer receives each year from sponsors, broadcasters and other partners.”

According to the new agreement, U.S. Soccer will play each player $18,000 for most matches and up to $24,000 for wins at certain major tournaments. Top players may also receive more. U.S. Soccer also said it would give upward of 90% of the money it receives from FIFA for World Cup competitions and split that money between the men’s and women’s players, which could “result in a shared prize pool of more than $20 million as soon as next year,” the Times reported.

Most of that revenue comes from the men’s team’s World Cup revenue, The Daily Wire previously reported. The women’s soccer team brings in less money because it has fewer viewers than men’s soccer overall. This changes when the women’s team makes it to the World Cup, something the U.S. Men’s team hasn’t done.

The Washington Post reported in 2019 that “Overall, from fiscal 2016 to 2018, the women’s games generated about $900,000 more revenue than the men’s games. In the year following the 2015 World Cup win, women’s games generated $1.9 million more than the men’s games.” The outlet noted, however, that the calculation leaves out fiscal 2015, which included a men’s World Cup cycle. Extending the calculation to include the men’s World Cup cycle and the women’s World Cup, the men’s team brought in $10.8 million more for U.S. Soccer, the federation told the Post.

But the revenue question is more complicated than that, the Post reported. While the men may have brought in more gross revenue, their net revenue was less than the women’s team, due to a number of factors such as salaries, bonuses, and expenses changing in recent years.

Prior to the new agreement, the women’s team received a higher percentage of revenue than the men’s team, though the revenue is lower. CBS reported in 2015 that the men’s team received 9% of the revenue generated by the 2010 World Cup — which amounted to $348 million. The women’s team received 13% of the 2015 World Cup revenue, but because the women’s team brought in less revenue, they only received $10 million. Now the women’s team will get some of the hundreds of millions of dollars that men’s team brings in World Cup revenue.

The women’s team also received a base salary and benefits, which the men’s team did not.

U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone told the Times that the new contracts would affect the larger mission of the organization.

“There’s no denying that money that we have to pay our national teams is money that’s not reinvested in the game,” he told the outlet. “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.”