At long last, members of the U.S. women’s soccer team have achieved a new kind of victory — one that means hard-earned equality for them and for all the future athletes who will proudly represent the U.S. on the pitch for years to come.
On Sept. 14, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced that it is offering identical contracts to the players of both the men’s and women’s U.S. soccer teams, finally acknowledging a pay discrepancy that has drawn outrage for years.
A statement released by the Federation explains that aligning the women’s and men’s teams under a single pay structure will ensure that all U.S. soccer players “remain among the highest paid senior national team players in the world.”
The move follows years of criticism and legal battles surrounding the Federation’s treatment and payment of U.S. women’s soccer players, particularly in comparison to their far-less-winning male counterparts.
Members of the U.S. women’s team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the Federation in 2019, in which they pointed out that “female players have been consistently paid less money than their male counterparts,” even though they have identical job responsibilities and, more strikingly, they perform better on the field than the U.S. men’s soccer team.
The U.S. women’s team has won the FIFA World Cup twice, in 2015 and 2019, while the U.S. men’s team has never won a World Cup. At the Tokyo Olympics, the men’s team didn’t even qualify, while the women won the bronze medal. The fact that the women’s team has been paid less while accomplishing much more was an embarrassing injustice that is finally being addressed by the new contracts.
Still, the journey toward pay equality among professional soccer players is far from over. Even the Federation in its recent statement notes the appallingly huge difference between prize money amounts awarded to male and female players who win the FIFA World Cup.
This is not a small pay gap. The women’s World Cup win in 2015 came with a $15 million award, while the 2019 win came with $30 million in prize money. This sounds pretty good … until you learn about the men’s World Cup prize money: $358 million in 2015 and a whopping $400 million in 2019. This amount is expected to go up to $440 million for the 2022-23 season, while the women’s prize money will likely total $60 million.
In its recent announcement about the U.S. team members’ pay contracts, the U.S. Soccer Federation expressed the urgent need to equalize the FIFA World Cup prize money. For now, however, the equalizing of contracts for male and female U.S. players is a step in the right direction toward achieving a very important goooooaaaaal.