Women Still Fighting: USWNT takes on US Soccer in struggle for equal pay

Courtesy+of+Wikimedia+Commons+%28Jamie+Smed%29

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (Jamie Smed)

Amanda Salazar

USSF, also called U.S. Soccer, and the women’s team have been going back and forth over this issue for years, but the issue really came to a head this past summer when the team won the 2019 World Cup.

At the team’s street parade in New York City to celebrate their win, chants of, “Equal pay!” rang out among fans and members of the crowd.

The USWNT even has a lawsuit against the USSF, saying that U.S. Soccer is violating the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

So, where did this issue really come about? And are the two teams actually being treated differently on the basis of gender?

In short, yes.

According to the USWNT’s lawsuit filings against the USSF, for the 20 required games that each of the teams is contractually obligated to play in, the women’s player would make $99,000 in all, which is $4,950 per game, and the men’s team players would make $263,320 in total, or $13,166 per game.

Additionally, also according to the lawsuit, players got $15,000 for making it onto the national women’s team from 2013 through 2016, whereas men earned $55,000 in 2014 and $68,750 in 2018.

And the world soccer federation, officially titled the Fédération Internationale de Football Association but probably better known as the International Federation of Association Football or FIFA, awarded $30 million in prize money for the women’s tournament. 

The year previously, the men got $400 million in prize money for their tournament.

Obviously, there are disparities in payment for the teams of the two genders — disparities that some believe are warranted — but the issue goes beyond pay to working conditions for the players.

One issue that the USWNT brought up in their lawsuit was that they were made to play on fake turf grass more often than the men’s team was. Artificial grass is, apparently, “less kind to the body,” probably because it is coarser and therefore more painful to fall on.

Out of the women’s team’s 62 domestic games last year, they had to play 13 of them, or 21%, on artificial surfaces. Out of the men’s team’s 49 domestic matches, they only had to play one game, or 2% of them, on fake grass.

Another discrepancy, once again according to the lawsuit, is over chartered flight — also known as taking a private jet.

In 2017, the USMNT got to take 17 chartered flights while the women’s team didn’t get to take any during that same time period.

It is clear that the two teams are treated differently, so the question then becomes: are the discrepancies over the player’s gender and is it okay to do so?

Well, the stance of the USSF seems to be that it’s not necessarily because USWNT is made up of women that it gets treated differently — just because it isn’t as good as the USMNT, and that, they say, is because they’re women.

“The job of a [men’s national team player] carries more responsibility within US Soccer than the job of a [women’s national team] player,” is what the USSF’s lawyers argued against the women’s team’s lawsuit. 

FIFA said that, at least when players play in their tournaments, the prize money is simply tied to revenue. The more they bring in, the more they bring home. And the men’s games just bring in more viewers and revenue than the women’s do.

When it comes to being unequally paid by the USSF, it is due, in part to the fact that the two teams each have a different pay structure.

“The men receive much higher bonuses when they play for the national team. The women receive guaranteed salaries (about $100,000 a year), but their bonuses are much smaller. The women haven’t necessarily complained about their pay structure — after all, this is what they negotiated — but they want their fair share of the money being doled out,” an article that details the situation from ESPN explained.

Additionally, from 2016 to 2018, the women’s games have brought in $50.8 million in revenue and the men’s matches brought in $49.9 million, but this is because the men’s games have a higher audience attendance, but the women played more games.

Publicly, the soccer federation is denying any unequal treatment between the two teams. 

USSF President Carlos Cordeiro said in a statement that they’ve been paying the women’s team more than the men’s in recent years. However, the numbers that he released along with this statement may not be entirely accurate, because of the teams’ different pay structures.

The men’s team, on the other hand, is in support of the USWNT.

“The members of the United States National Soccer Team Players Association once again stands with the members of the world champion Women’s National Team in their pursuit of fair compensation for their work as professional soccer players,” a statement from the team read.