The men’s World Cup soccer tournament is the biggest thing in the world of sports, with a purse of \$450 million being split among the 32 national teams competing in Qatar this year.
In contrast, the women’s World Cup isn’t. It’s purse is about an order of magnitude smaller: \$30 million for 24 teams in 2019.
But it’s not FAIR that the rest of the world cares vastly more about men’s soccer than about women’s soccer. Somebody must pay.
Namely, American national men’s team players:
Landmark labor agreements with members of the men’s and women’s national teams will include higher paychecks and shared World Cup prize money.
By Andrew Das
May 18, 2022
… That reality arrived Wednesday in landmark contracts with the U.S. Soccer Federation that will guarantee, for the first time, that soccer players representing the United States men’s and women’s national teams will receive the same pay when competing in international matches and competitions.
In addition to equal rates of pay for individual matches, the deals include a provision, believed to be the first of its kind, through which the teams will pool the unequal prize money payments U.S. Soccer receives from FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, for their participation in the quadrennial World Cup. Starting with the 2022 men’s tournament and the 2023 Women’s World Cup, that money will be shared equally among the members of both teams.
“No other country has ever done this,” U.S. Soccer’s president, Cindy Cone, said of the deal to equalize World Cup payments. “I think everyone should be really proud of what we’ve accomplished here. It really, truly, is historic.”
But, then, what does the rest of the world know about soccer compared to us Americans?
The agreements were reached just over six years after a group of stars from the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s national team began a campaign to overcome what they said was years of wage discrimination by U.S. Soccer against its female players. The players argued that they had been paid less than their male counterparts for decades even as they won world championships and Olympic gold medals.
Playing against girls.
It’s not a really complex insight, but the fact that the US women’s team win the women’s World Cup all the time while US men’s team never comes close to winning the real World Cup is, obviously, proof that women’s soccer is not of much interest outside the US and, say, Norway.
The fight over per diems and paychecks eventually morphed into a federal lawsuit in which the women accused U.S. Soccer of “institutionalized gender discrimination.” While the women lost in federal court in 2020, when a judge ruled against their core claims, they eventually won their equal pay victory at the negotiating table, with a final assist from the men’s team.
It was the men’s team’s players, in fact, who opened a pathway to a deal late last year when they privately agreed to share some of the millions of dollars in World Cup bonus money that they have traditionally received by pooling it with the smaller payments the women receive from their own championship.
That split could see the two teams pool, and share, \$20 million or more as soon as next year. That will be in addition to match payments that are expected to average \$450,000 a year — and double that, or more, in years when World Cup bonus money is added.
For the women’s team’s players, Wednesday’s agreements were as much a relief as a triumph. Becky Sauerbrunn, one of the five players who signed the original complaint in 2016, admitted, “It’s hard to get so, so excited about something we should have had all along.”
Through the years, as the sides battled in courtrooms and negotiating sessions, the dispute produced sometimes caustic — and personal — disagreements about personal privacy, workplace equality and basic fairness, and drew support (and second-guessing) from a disparate chorus of presidential candidates, star athletes and Hollywood celebrities — not all of them supportive of the women’s campaign for pay equity.
The difference in compensation for men and women has been one of the most contentious issues in soccer in recent years, particularly after the American women won consecutive World Cup championships, in 2015 and 2019, and the 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
Well, to be precise, “most recognizable” among those who care about women’s soccer …
, had escalated and amplified its fight in court filings, news media interviews and on the sport’s grandest stages.
… The split of prize money, then, is a notable concession by the American men, who have previously been awarded the bulk of those multimillion-dollar payments by U.S. Soccer, and a potential seven-figure windfall for the women. 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.
“When we got together as a group, certainly we saw that there was not going to be a way forward without the equalization of prize money,” said Walker Zimmerman, a defender on the men’s team and a member of his union’s leadership group. He said the process of persuading the rest of his teammates to share the money involved “difficult conversations, a lot of listening, a lot of learning.”
“Difficult conversations” sound like great psychological training for taking on England in Qatar.