US Soccer reaches landmark deals to pay men's and women's national teams equally: A closer look

USA TODAY

By Nacy Armour

U.S. Soccer and its women’s and men’s national teams announced landmark new contracts Wednesday that will pay the squads equally – including a split of World Cup prize money. The deals are the culmination of a decades-long fight by the USWNT, U.S. Soccer’s most successful – and visible – team, for equal compensation and fair treatment, and further recognition by the federation that American soccer is stronger when everyone is unified.

“It’s very rewarding. For me, I feel very humbled to join this fight that has been going on years before I even touched a ball. Before I was born, actually,” Midge Purce, a member of the USWNT’s bargaining committee, told USA TODAY Sports.

“I’m really proud of the work that’s been done. A lot of gifted people came together to put together something really special.”

Under the new deal, this year’s pool for the USWNT would be $7.2 million, a 54 percent increase from 2018. That includes a 68 percent increase – to $120,000 – in what players could earn just from this summer’s World Cup qualifying tournament.

The new collective bargaining agreements run through 2028, ensuring labor peace for two full World Cup cycles. That is no small thing considering the U.S. is co-hosting the 2026 men’s tournament with Canada and Mexico.

“Everyone who cares about our sport should share in this pride as we look forward to working together to grow soccer for generations to come,” U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone, a former USWNT player, said.

A closer look at the deal:

WHAT, EXACTLY, WILL EQUAL PAY LOOK LIKE?

The appearance fees for U.S. training camps and national team matches will be the same for players from both teams, while the same criteria – result and opponent’s rank – will be used to determine performance bonuses for friendlies.

That’s the easy part.

World Cup bonuses have long been a sticking point for the USWNT. No matter how successful the U.S. women were, they were always going to get short-changed because of the vast disparity in FIFA’s prize money.

The U.S. women got $4 million after winning their second consecutive title in 2019 while France got $38 million for winning the men’s event a year earlier. In 2014, the USMNT got almost $5.4 million just for reaching the round of 16; they didn’t make the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Under the new deals, U.S. Soccer will put 90 percent of the prize money from both the men’s and women’s World Cups into a pool and the players will split that.

HOW SIGNIFICANT IS THAT?

Very.

Other countries, including Australia, Norway, England and Brazil, have committed to equal base pay for their men’s and women’s players; no federation has gone this far in splitting World Cup prize money. Most don’t give their players this much of the FIFA money, either.

“The opportunity we have here is to lead and lead by example,” said defender Walker Zimmerman, a member of the USMNT players association’s leadership group. “Looking at what this means, hopefully, for the international game, this is a big deal. It’s not something that should be overlooked.

“Hopefully this is the gold standard for what is to come.”