The herculean effort for equal pay between the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) and United States Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) kicked-off in earnest in 2016. A petition catalyzed a gender discrimination complaint against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) by the USWNT.
USWNT Collective Bargaining Agreement player-leadership team consisting of Becky Sauerbrunn, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint. In the complaint, USWNT members raised to the Commission unequal pay and treatment.
The players asserted that U.S. Soccer was in violation of both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
With little genuie headway being made between the respective parties, the players raised their stakes and went to court again. On March 8, 2019, International Women’s Day, 28-players on the women’s team filed a suit against U.S. Soccer. The players firmly believed that years of institutionized gender discrimination has become the norm.
The suit came only three months ahead of the World Cup and caught the attention of football supports worldwide. And that proverbial ‘EQUAL PAY’ ball has been rolling ever since.
In the spring of 2020, when relations between players, their representatives, and the Federation hit a crossbar hard when the Federation raised sexist legal arguments suggesting that women’s players were inferior to men.
The Federation’s position insinuated that the work of the women who wore the Stars and Stripes on and off the pitch was less demanding, and required less skill than the equivalent work of their counterparts.
Attorneys representing U.S. Soccer argued in their filed documents, “The job of a men’s national team player carries more responsibility within U.S. Soccer than the job of a women’s national team player.”
“This ridiculous argument belongs in the Paleolithic era,” said Molly Levison, then a public relations representative for the women’s player’s union. “It sounds as if it has been made by a caveman. Literally everyone in the world understands that an argument that male players have more responsibility is just plain, simple sexism and illustrates the very gender discrimination that caused us to file this lawsuit to begin with.”
In a small response to the demeaning insults, the USWNT wore their jerseys inside-out while warming up before their SheBelieves Tournament match with Japan in Frisco, Texas, blocking-out the sewn on U.S.Soccer emblem.
Looking at ISI Photos and saw that #USWNT players have all taken the field wearing their warm-up jerseys inside out, hiding the U.S. Soccer crest... but not the four stars.— Meg Linehan (@itsmeglinehan) March 11, 2020
Yeah, that feels intentional.
Brad Smith/ISI pic.twitter.com/rGEiYghZfb
Then Federation president, Carlos Cordeiro, apologized and subsequently resigned.
U.S. Soccer named Cindy Parlow Cone as the new president.
Two years later, the respective parties settled the class action suit for $24 million, and began negotiating in earnest for parity between both player groups and the Federation. The USWNT team sought nearly $67 million in damages as part of their gender discrimination lawsuit. More tense negotiations followed.
This past May, both the men’s and women’s national teams announced that new Collective Bargaining agreement had been achieved with the Federation.
The historic agreements are models for fellow national teams to emulate, if not improve.
On Tuesday evening in Washington, D.C., representatives from both U.S. Soccer Federation, the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association and the U.S National Soccer Team Players Association signed a first-of-their-kind agreements which are said to achieve true equal pay between the USWNT and the USMNT. They set the international standard for compensation and support for professional soccer.
“For this day to finally be here,” Parlow Cone proudly stated on Audi Field to the standing room only crowd. ”I literally can’t put it into words how important this is to me personally, but more important, what it’s going to mean to the rest of the world, not just here in the U.S., not just in sports, but to the rest of the world.”
“I want to thank the players past and present for our persistence and basically never shying away from asking the question, ‘Why not?’” USWNT player and Players Association boss, Becky Sauerbrunn, stated during the ceremony that was held after the USWNT contest with Nigeria. ”I think us players really knew we were on the right track when we started attracting some of the most brilliant minds in their fields to our cause.”
“Contrary to what it may seem like, we don’t love to be in these fights,” said Megan Rapinoe, who champions so many worthy equality causes. “We’d much rather focus on what we need to, which is winning and winning World Cups and continuing to be the best team we can. That’s not up to us. If everybody else wants to stop this, it’d be great.”
Rapinoe continued, “The ink is finally on the paper, it’s still surreal a little bit. It’s been the history of the whole program; that’s how I look at it. In this moment, it’s going forward, but we wouldn’t be here without all the players before with the groundwork they laid. So it was a full circle moment, and I’m very proud of all of us.”
Rapinoe reflected and added, “I think if you speak to any of us, we always speak of the older players… That’s where we learned our tenaciousness on and off the field. That’s just in the DNA and the fabric of the team.”
The unofficial yet crystal clear spokesperson for the team concluded by saying- “We wouldn’t be here without all the players that came before. It feels like a very full circle moment, and I’m so proud of all of us.”
The two, separate deals for the women’s and men’s unions are valid through 2028. The terms promote equal pay through mirroring financial economic terms, commercial revenue sharing and finally, equal World Cup prize money.
For rising Colorado soccer stars including Jalen Howell, Mallory Pugh, Lindsey Horan and Sophia Smith, and those who will follow them into both into the professional ranks and national team circuits, the dogged worked of the veterans before them will pay immeasurable dividends.
It is only fair. Think of this- the women have won four World Cup titles since 1991. They are also proud Olympic medal winners too.
Above all, they consistently overachieve, and are ever so entertaining to watch as admirable competitors when they wear Red White and Blue.
According to a U.S. Soccer press release issued on May 18th, 2022, highlights of the accordes include:
On-field Base and Performance Pay:
For friendly games, players on the USWNT and USMNT will be paid identical roster appearance fees and performance payments, based on the outcome of the match and the rank of the opponent, with identical tiering structures. Players not on the game roster will earn the equivalent of an appearance fee for their participation in a Senior National Team camp.
For official competitions, including the World Cup, USWNT and USMNT players will earn identical game appearance fees. For official competitions other than the World Cup, USWNT and USMNT players will earn identical game bonuses.
The CBAs provide that USWNT players will no longer receive guaranteed salaries, and those who play in the NWSL will no longer have their NWSL salaries paid by U.S. Soccer.
Equalization of World Cup Prize Money:
In a first-of-its-kind agreement, U.S. Soccer has agreed with both the USWNTPA and the USNSTPA to pool and share a portion of prize money paid for the teams’ participation in the 2022 Men’s World Cup (MWC) and the 2023 Women’s World Cup (WWC). In this arrangement, the players on the 2022 MWC roster and on the 2023 WWC roster will be paid an equal percentage of the collective prize money paid by FIFA for the teams’ participation and performance in their respective World Cups. The same will occur with the 2026 MWC and the 2027 MWC.
For non-World Cup tournaments, the CBAs ensure that players on both teams will earn an equal amount of the total prize money paid when both teams participate in the same competition.
Commercial Revenue Sharing
In another first for U.S. Soccer and the Players Associations, U.S. Soccer will share a portion of its broadcast, partner and sponsorship revenue with a 50/50 split of that share divided equally between USWNT and USMNT. This new revenue-sharing framework will provide additional encouragement for all parties to work together to grow the game.
U.S. Soccer will pay the USWNT and USMNT players a share of the revenue from tickets sold at U.S. Soccer-controlled home matches and a bonus amount for those games that are sellouts.
The historic CBAs will cover the next two World Cup and Olympic cycles and keep USWNT and USMNT players among the highest paid National Team players in the world. The terms of the CBAs, the result of an extensive bargaining process among U.S. Soccer, the USWNTPA, and the USNSTPA, have been approved by U.S. Soccer’s Board of Directors and ratified by the membership of both Players Associations.
In addition to equal compensation, all Senior National Team players will receive the following benefits:
Child Care: During Senior National Team training camps and matches, U.S. Soccer will provide childcare.
Retirement: U.S. Soccer will provide a 401(k) plan for all USWNT and USMNT players, while matching up to 5% of players’ compensation, subject to IRS limits. Matching amounts paid to MNT and WNT players will be deducted from each team’s respective share of commercial revenue payable in each year.
Outside of compensation, the CBAs specify important protections to ensure that U.S. Soccer continues to provide a best-in-class playing and training environment for its Senior National Team players. Both Senior National Teams will receive equal support, while allowing for flexibility due to each team’s specific needs.
A few of these provisions include:
Venues and Field Surfaces: U.S. Soccer will provide equal quality of venues and field playing surfaces to the USWNT and USMNT.
Accommodations: U.S. Soccer will provide equal resources to the USWNT and USMNT with respect to hotel accommodations for all U.S. Senior National Team matches and camps. On a per-night, per-room basis, U.S. Soccer will maintain comparable budgets for the USWNT and USMNT for each fiscal year for hotel accommodations for matches and camps.
National Team Staffing: The CBAs recommit U.S. Soccer to providing a world-class training environment by ensuring that Senior National Teams’ camps are fully staffed by the experienced personnel needed to provide players with training, recovery and rehabilitation. Additionally, the CBAs commit U.S. Soccer to staffing Senior National Team camps equally, while respecting the unique needs of the USWNT and USMNT.
Travel: U.S. Soccer will provide an equal number of charter flights to both Senior National Teams during camps for team travel to Official Competitions, tournaments, and friendlies.