Equal Pay and the U.S. Soccer Federation: FAQ
1. What is the U.S. Soccer Federation’s (USSF) stance on equal pay for the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT)?
U.S. Soccer is 100% committed to equal pay for our national team players. That’s our goal, that’s our focus, and that’s how we are going to bring the game forward in the United States. We have offered the women’s team the exact same bonus amounts as the men’s team for games U.S. Soccer controls and remain committed to providing equal compensation. We support not only the USWNT, but women around the world in their continued fight for equal pay and equal treatment in the workplace.
2. How does the current USSF leadership team’s approach differ from that of past leadership?
USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone is a two-time Olympic Gold medalist and was a member of the iconic U.S. women’s team that won the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup. She has been in the shoes of the current USWNT players and understands their perspectives intimately. Cindy and the entire USSF leadership team are 100% committed to equal pay and to doing right by the USWNT.
3. Do U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) players make more money than USWNT players?
No. From 2015 to 2019, USWNT players made more money than USMNT players as a team both overall and on an average per-game basis. USSF paid the four USWNT class representatives in the equal pay lawsuit more than the four highest paid USMNT players.
4. Does the USWNT have to play more games to get paid as much as the USMNT?
No. Between 2015 to 2019, the USWNT played 111 total games and made $24.5 million overall, averaging $220,747 per game. The USMNT played 87 total games and made $18.5 million overall, averaging $212,639 per game. The USWNT did play more games due to the difference in competitions and international calendar than the USMNT, but they also earned more money than the USMNT per game.
5. Is it true that, compared to the USMNT, the USWNT regularly has sub-standard travel and lodging accommodations when traveling for work?
No. The USWNT regularly stays at some of the finest hotel properties in the world. In terms of travel, since the start of 2018 until July 1, 2021, the USWNT and USMNT have chartered the exact same number of flights.
6. Why didn’t U.S. Soccer choose to participate in the recent “LFG” movie about the USWNT’s fight for equal pay?
The filmmakers came to us at the last minute – after they had been conducting interviews with others for more than a year. Regardless, we spoke with them and reached the unfortunate – and now proven – conclusion that the movie would not present a balanced view of the facts, with or without our active participation. We even provided them specific information, such as the fact that the USWNT at that time had chartered more flights than the USMNT and they chose to ignore that information. Bottom line, these facts were available and were omitted from the production.
7. Who decides how much the USWNT is paid?
The USWNT’s compensation is the result of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) made between USSF and the USWNT’s players association – the United States Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association (WNTPA). USSF is required by law to abide by this collectively bargained deal, negotiated and agreed to by the USWNT and their representatives. The same is true of U.S. Soccer’s CBA negotiated with and agreed to by the USMNT and their players association, the United States National Soccer Team Players Association (USNSTPA).
8. How does the Federation explain the differences in its contracts with the USWNT and the USMNT?
Our national teams are represented by two different players associations who separately negotiate CBAs on behalf of their teams. The contracts in place are the result of extensive bargaining processes, shaped by the priorities of each of these groups of players.
During U.S. Soccer’s last negotiation with the WNTPA, the USWNT was offered the exact same pay-for-play compensation structure that the USMNT operates under, but the WNTPA rejected that offer. They ultimately asked for and agreed to a different compensation model, which provided them with guaranteed pay. Even after the last USWNT deal was inked, U.S. Soccer again offered the USWNT the exact same compensation as the USMNT for all U.S. Soccer-controlled games. The USWNT rejected that as well. In part, that’s why when the women’s national team sued U.S. Soccer, a judge threw out their claim.
USMNT players do not receive any minimum guaranteed salaries, and they get paid only when they play. The USWNT, on the other hand, chose a deal that favored guaranteed contracts with U.S. Soccer, meaning contracted USWNT players have a set salary and benefits. The USWNT has valued the stability offered by guaranteed pay and benefits.
9. Why doesn’t USSF have one master agreement for both the men and the women’s national teams?
U.S. Soccer supports one master agreement for the men’s and women’s national teams, and we have offered this to both players associations, but the union representatives for both the men’s and women’s teams have not supported a universal framework to date.
10. Why is there such a huge difference in prize money awarded for performance in the Men’s and Women’s World Cups?
The massive difference in prize money awarded for men’s and women’s World Cups is dictated entirely by soccer’s global governing body, FIFA. FIFA alone controls those funds and pays them to national soccer federations around the world. U.S. Soccer is legally obligated to then distribute those funds based on our contracts with the men’s and women’s teams.
11. What is U.S. Soccer doing to pressure FIFA to eliminate the gap in prize money?
U.S. Soccer has continued and will continue to press FIFA to eliminate the gap in prize money. Importantly, we are only one of 211 national soccer federations across the world. Although we have pushed FIFA continuously to treat the genders more equitably, our leverage is limited. Addressing this massive gap in FIFA prize money will require the constructive and creative engagement of the women’s and men’s teams here in the U.S., as well as like-minded soccer federations around the world.
12. What exactly is the USWNT asking for in their equal pay lawsuit?
They are asking U.S. Soccer to cover past and future differences in FIFA prize money, totaling well over $50 million for the past two World Cups, and an unknown amount for future World Cups. FIFA alone controls those funds and pays them to national soccer federations around the world. U.S. Soccer is legally obligated to then distribute those funds based on our contracts with the men’s and women’s teams.
13. Can the Federation use its own money to make up the difference in World Cup prize money that the USWNT is asking for?
Unlike most national governing bodies, U.S. Soccer already distributes over 100% of the FIFA Women’s World Cup prize money earned by the USWNT players to the USWNT players. The gap in prize money was created and is maintained by FIFA and it is simply not feasible for U.S. Soccer to make it up.
The U.S. Soccer Federation is not a professional sports league. We are a non-profit, member-based organization, meaning every dollar we make goes right back into the game. Asking U.S. Soccer to close the gap created by FIFA is untenable and would likely bankrupt the Federation or at the very least, put the Federation in an incredibly challenging financial situation that would eliminate our ability to fund important programs for coaches and referees and would eliminate our youth national teams and our youth development for boys and girls.
14. Why doesn’t U.S. Soccer pool its FIFA prize money and distribute it evenly among the USWNT and the USMNT?
It would be illegal for U.S. Soccer to redistribute its FIFA World Cup prize money in a way that doesn’t comply with our CBAs under which we currently operate with the USWNT and the USMNT. Currently, pooling our FIFA prize money and distributing it evenly would not comply with those agreements, and U.S. Soccer cannot unilaterally change that fact. We would love to work with our national teams and their players associations to make history as the first national governing body to pool its FIFA prize money and distribute it evenly, but we can’t do so without successful renegotiations of both of our national teams’ CBAs to include this arrangement.
15. Haven’t other countries around the world been able to successfully figure out how to pay their men’s and women’s national teams equally, including providing equal World Cup prize money?
This is a problem that not a single national governing body has been able to solve. Brazil, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, and England have all equalized the compensation for games that they control, exactly what USSF has and will continue to offer to the USWNT. The efforts of these other national governing bodies have been widely reported, and in some cases lauded by equal pay proponents, as accomplishing equal pay, but not one of them has equalized World Cup prize money between the men’s and women’s teams or has pooled and shared World Cup prize money between the teams.
16. What is the status of the USSF’s ongoing CBA negotiations with the USWNT and the USMNT?
The USWNT’s current deal ends this year. The USMNT’s CBA expired at the end of 2018. We have continued and will continue to work closely with representatives from the USMNT and are confident that we’re making good progress towards a deal. Our aim through collective bargaining with our national teams is to reach agreements that address the players’ priorities, including developing new ways for our teams and organization to continue to grow and prosper together. We are proud that our athletes are already among the highest paid in the world, and we’re confident that working together we can reach agreements that we all feel good about moving forward.
17. How much money does USSF make?
U.S. Soccer is a non-profit, member-based organization. Detailed financial information, including audited financial statements, can be accessed and reviewed in the Governance section of our website.
18. The USWNT has higher TV ratings and brings in more revenue than the USMNT, so don’t they deserve at least equal pay?
We want all of our national teams, from the senior women’s and men’s teams to our youth national teams, Para-7-a-Side, beach and futsal to have all of their games broadcast, to be watched by as many people as possible and to generate revenue. But we have a long way to go.
As we sit here today, not all of our National Team matches are broadcast on English and Spanish television, but we will continue to encourage our broadcast partners to invest in the game at all levels.
While it has been reported that the USWNT has higher TV ratings than the USMNT, that is not always true.
- We’re proud to say that the USWNT did generate the highest TV ratings for any soccer game with an audience of 26.9 million for the 2015 Women’s World Cup Final.
- But that fact is often extrapolated to conclude that the USWNT has higher TV ratings overall.
- On average, the USMNT has higher TV ratings, whether it is a friendly or a World Cup match.
Regarding revenue generation, there’s a number of reports stating accurately that the USWNT generated more revenue than the USMNT in fiscal years 2016-2018.
Here are the facts:
- From fiscal years 2009 to 2015, the USWNT was $22 million in the red, while the USMNT earned $2.6 million.
- From fiscal years 2015 to 2020, the USWNT was $211k in the red, while the USMNT was $5.7 million in the red.
- So, in total, since 2009, the USWNT has been minus $22 million in terms of cost/revenue, while the USMNT has been minus $3.4 million in cost/revenue.
While we always aim to generate revenue from the senior National Team matches we control, the cost of putting on those matches usually exceeds the revenue generated from them on both the men’s and women’s side. However, we always view supporting our senior National Teams as important investments in the future of the game.
19. Who will pay the USWNT players for playing in the NWSL?
Under U.S. Soccer’s current proposal, the USWNT players will be paid by NWSL clubs for playing in the league while U.S. Soccer will continue to pay the players for USWNT duties.
With the NWSL in a solid position with continued room to grow, U.S. Soccer and the NWSL agreed that the Federation would no longer be the NWSL’s manager as of December 2020. That means, starting in 2022, NWSL clubs will begin paying salaries directly to those USWNT players who choose to play in the NWSL. USSF will no longer allocate or pay players to play in the NWSL.
The NWSL’s maturation is a significant and incredibly positive development for the growth of women’s game in the United States and abroad. What U.S. Soccer is proposing mirrors the standard approach across the world where salaries for league play are paid by the professional clubs.
While U.S. Soccer will no longer pay the USWNT players for NWSL league play, it has and will continue to provide financial assistance to the NWSL. U.S. Soccer was instrumental in starting the NWSL in 2013, providing more than $20 million during the league’s early years to ensure its long-term sustainability – including paying salaries to all USWNT players allocated to play in the NWSL (up to 22), in addition to the $100,000 a year salary that U.S. Soccer was otherwise paying to contracted USWNT players for their National Team performance.
20. Does that mean the USWNT players playing in the NWSL will be paid less?
No. It simply means that USWNT players who choose to play in the NWSL will now be paid a salary directly from their professional NWSL club. U.S. Soccer will pay the players for USWNT duties. This mirrors the standard approach across the world where salaries for league play are paid by the professional clubs.