The US Soccer Association completes a milestone in pay equity with men’s and women’s national teams
The US Football Association has reached milestone agreements to pay its men’s and women’s teams equally, making America’s national governing body the first in sport to promise equal pay for both sexes.
The Chicago-based association on Wednesday announced separate collective bargaining agreements through December 2028 with unions for both national teams, ending years of often acrimonious negotiations.
The men played under the terms of a CBA that expired in December 2018. The women’s CBA expired at the end of March, but talks continued after the federation and players agreed to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by some players in 2019. The settlement was conditional on the federation securing employment contracts completed, equalizing wages and bonuses between the two teams.
“I’m very proud of the girls who are seeing this growing up and acknowledging their worth instead of having to fight for it. However, my father always told me that you are not rewarded for doing what you are supposed to do – and paying men and women equally is what you should do,” said United States forward Margaret Purce.
“So I’m not awarding gold stars, but I’m grateful for this achievement and for all the people who came together to make this happen.”
Perhaps the biggest sticking point was the World Cup prize money, which depends on how far a team progresses in the tournament. While the US women have enjoyed success on the international stage with back-to-back World Cup titles, disparities in FIFA prize money meant they took home far fewer than the men’s winners.
The unions agreed to pool FIFA payments for the Men’s World Cup later this year and the Women’s World Cup next year, as well as the 2026 and 2027 tournaments.
Each player receives match participation fees, making the USSF the first federation to pool FIFA prize money in this way, according to the USSF.
“We saw it as an opportunity, a chance to be leaders on that front and join the women’s team and US soccer. So we’re really excited to be able to close the deal,” said Walker Zimmerman, a defense attorney who is a member of the US National Team Players Association leadership group.
The federation was previously based on payments from FIFA, which earmarked $400 million for the 2018 men’s tournament, including $38 million for champions France, and $30 million for the 2019 women’s tournament, including $4 million for the champion USA.
FIFA has increased the total for the 2022 Men’s World Cup to $440 million and its President, Gianni Infantino, has proposed that FIFA increase the women’s prize money for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, where FIFA will field teams to 32 , doubled to $60 million.
For current World Cup cycles, the USSF will pool FIFA funds, deduct 10% from the maximum amount and then split the rest equally between 46 players – 23 players on each team’s roster. For the 2026-27 cycle, the pre-split USSF reduction increases to 20%.
After missing out on the 2018 World Cup, the men qualified for this year’s World Cup in Qatar, which begins in November. The women’s team will attempt to qualify for the 2023 World Cup this year, co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
At smaller tournaments, such as those hosted by the Governing Body of North America, players receive identical play bonuses. And for exhibition matches, players receive appropriate appearance fees and performance payments based on match score and opponent’s rank. Players who do not dress up will be paid a fee equivalent to attending a national team training camp.
The women gave up guaranteed base salaries that had been part of their CBA since 2005. Some players were guaranteed an annual salary of $100,000.
“I think we’ve outgrown some of the conditions that seem like we’ve lost something, but now ours [professional] The league is actually strong enough where we don’t need that many guaranteed contracts now, you know, we can use more of a pay-to-play model,” Purce said.
Childcare, which has applied to women for more than 25 years, is extended to men during national team training camps and matches.
The women and men also receive a portion of the commercial revenue from tickets to USSF-controlled games, with bonuses for sell-outs, and each team receives a portion of the revenue from broadcasts, partners and sponsors.
Players will receive a 401(k) plan and the USSF will match up to 5% of a player’s compensation, subject to IRS limits. This money is deducted from the shares of business income.
“There were moments when I thought everything was going to fall apart and then it all came back together and it’s a real credit to all the different groups coming together and negotiating around the table,” said federation president Cindy Parlow Cone, a former National – Team player who was appointed to the helm of the governing body in 2020. “I think that was really the turning point. In the past trying to negotiate a collective agreement with the women and then vice versa and negotiate the collective agreements with the men and vice versa was a real challenge. I think the real turning point was when we finally all sat in the same room, sat at the same table, and worked together to achieve that goal.”
Women ended six years of equal pay litigation in February with an agreement that ordered the USSF to pay $24 million, an agreement conditional on new collective agreements being signed.
As part of the settlement, players will split $22 million, about a third of what they were asking for in damages. The USSF also agreed to establish a $2 million fund to support players in their post-soccer careers and charitable efforts aimed at promoting the sport for women.
Mark Levinstein, attorney for the men’s union, said the agreement ended “more than 20 years of discrimination against USWNT by the union.”
“Together with the USWNTPA, the USMNT players have achieved what everyone thought was impossible – an agreement that provides USMNT players with fair compensation and USWNT players with equal pay and working conditions,” he said. “The new FA leadership should be given tremendous credit for working with the players to achieve these agreements.”
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