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USWNT Fight For Equality In The U.S. While Taking On The World In The World Cup

On March 8, 28 players filed a complaint in the US District Court in Los Angeles alleging that US Soccer practices gender-based pay-discrimination in their national team programs. The complaint also alleges that US Soccer denies the players “equal playing, training and travel conditions and promotes [the women’s] games less compared with the men’s soccer team.” In all the players allege that US Soccer has violated the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The players and US Soccer agreed on June 21 to sit down for mediation after the World Cup. If mediation is successful, the players may see improvements quicker than they would if they pursue the lawsuit to its completion.

In response to the complaint of March 8, US Soccer has argued that the pay-discrepancy between the men and women is because of differences in their collective bargaining agreements (CBA). A representative of US Soccer stated that the CBA’s are structured “based on differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex.”

The complaint filed by the WNT players examines the revenue generated by both the US Men’s National Team (MNT) and the WNT. US Soccer claims that the MNT produces more revenue than the WNT and therefore the MNT players are entitled to higher pay.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row equal_height=”yes” content_placement=”middle”][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]The Wall Street Journal conducted an audit of US Soccer’s available financials and found that US Soccer is correct in their assertion that the revenue numbers between the two national teams are not equal. The WNT team has out-earned the MNT by $1.87 million since 2016.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”6163″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It is important to note that US Soccer packages both the MNT and WNT together when they sell broadcasting rights. This makes it difficult to attribute the revenue generated by those deals to one team over the other. However, the most valuable of the broadcasting rights, the rights to the World Cup, are sold by FIFA, the International Federation for soccer, and US Soccer does not generate revenue directly from those rights.

US Soccer has indicated that the revenue generated by each team is a very complex and nuanced process. The revenue numbers that can be attributed to one team over the other is that of ticket sales. However, ticket sales, according to US Soccer, do not contribute significantly to the overall revenue picture. Other revenue sources include sponsorships, broadcasting rights, and hosting international competitions, similar to the Gold Cup. According to US Soccer, the revenue created by these sources are allocated to both the MNT and WNT as well as a multitude of other teams and programs that are run by US Soccer.

If the numbers provided by the complaint and the Wall Street Journal are correct, then it is clear that the WNT is paid significantly less for performing the same job as the men, despite outperforming the MNT on the pitch and in revenue generation since 2016. However, it would be helpful to have a full understanding of the overall revenue picture and the distribution of that revenue to come to a conclusion on the WNT’s alleged violations of law. This is the task that now faces the US District Court in Los Angeles.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”6162″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]Looking back at the last World Cup in which the teams took part, the pay discrepancy becomes apparent. The last World Cup the MNT qualified for was in 2014, where they went 1-2-1 and lost in the round of 16. According to the complaint, this performance earned the MNT a total of $5.4 million from US Soccer. The MNT failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

The WNT, on the other hand, won the 2015 World Cup in Canada and only received $1.7 million from US Soccer.

The complaint goes further and looks at how much the players are paid for participation in friendly games.

World Cup


“58. A comparison of the WNT and MNT pay shows that if each team played 20 friendlies in a year and each team won all twenty friendlies, female WNT players would earn a maximum of $99,000 or $4,950 per game, while similarly situated male MNT players would earn an average of $263,320 or $13,166 per game against the various levels of competition they would face. A 20-game winning top tier WNT player would earn only 38% of the compensation of a similarly situated MNT player.”

Payment for Friendlies


US Soccer asserts that the complaint filed by the players uses numbers that are based on the old CBA. US Soccer alleges that the new CBA, which is not public, provides payment closer to $270,000 per player for being named to the team and playing in friendlies.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row equal_height=”yes” content_placement=”middle”][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]The WNT players also allege that not only are they more successful than the MNT, they are also required to play more often. The complaint alleges that “from 2015 through 2018, the WNT played nineteen more games than the MNT played over that same period of time.”

The WNT will have the difficult task of demonstrating that the numbers provided in the complaint are accurate. If mediation fails to find a suitable compromise, the fight between the players and US Soccer will come down to a determination of what the precise revenue numbers are.

US Soccer has made revenue numbers the pivotal consideration in the pay discrepancy. A US Soccer representative stated,

“market realities are such that the women do not deserve to be paid equally to the men.”

It would appear that the current market, in reality, supports the position of the WNT players.

The battle between players and management is not unique to the women’s game or soccer. Over the years, athletes in every major sport in North America have had to take a stand and fight for better rights, better treatment, and better pay. The WNT is the latest of brave athletes that have put their careers on the line to stand up for what they believe is right.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”“market realities are such that the women do not deserve to be paid equally to the men.”” font_container=”tag:h2|font_size:40|text_align:left”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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