US Soccer throws wrench in inequality claim, audit shows women’s team was paid more than men’s

The U.S. Soccer Federation is pushing back in the debate over pay equity, releasing a letter saying that the women’s national team has been paid more than the men’s national team.

Figures were released Monday in a letter from U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro ahead of a mediation in the lawsuit over what the women’s team have called “institutionalized gender discrimination,” according to Time.

(Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

Increasing pressure on the federation over the issue has mounted, especially in light of the attention it has garnered with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team victory in the World Cup and the outspoken team co-captain Megan Rapinoe essentially making “equal pay” a battle cry.

Cordeiro’s letter noted that it is the two teams’ collective-bargaining agreements, and not gender, that makes for the different compensation structure, with the women’s team getting paid a base salary and bonuses while the men are paid bonuses – though larger – based on matches and performance.

The pay analysis, according to the letter from Cordeiro, showed that, during the period of 2010-2018, U.S. Soccer paid female players $34.1 million in salaries and game bonuses and paid the men’s team $26.4 million.

“In the weeks ahead, we’ll focus on preparing for mediation and resolving this matter in the best interests of the WNT and U.S. Soccer. I want you to know that U.S. Soccer is committed to doing right by our players, and I’ve been encouraged by the public comments from players expressing their desire for a cooperative approach. I remain optimistic that we can find common ground,” Cordeiro wrote. “Together, I believe we can get this done.”

According to Time:

U.S. Soccer said it pays the women’s national team players a base salary of $100,000 per year, and an additional $67,500 to $72,500 per player as a salary for playing in the National Women’s Soccer League. The women also have health care benefits and a retirement plan.

Players on the men’s national team are paid by training camp call-ups, game appearances and through performance bonuses. The federation acknowledged the men have the ability to earn higher bonuses than the women. The men’s team did not make the field for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, while the women have won back-to-back World Cup titles.

But Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the players, called Cordeiro’s letter “a sad attempt by USSF to quell the overwhelming tide of support the USWNT has received from everyone from fans to sponsors to the United States Congress.”

“The USSF has repeatedly admitted that it does not pay the women equally and that it does not believe the women even deserve to be paid equally,” Levinson said. “This is why they use words like ‘fair and equitable,’ not equal in describing pay.”

The USSF has noted that the men’s team generates more revenue, with $185.7 over 191 games while the women’s team generated $101.3 million over 238 games between 2009 and 2019.

(File photo: screenshot)

The U.S. women’s team’s victory over the Netherlands earlier this month sparked a chant of “equal pay” in the stadium and the same was heard at a ticker-tape parade held for the team in New York City which saw many fans holding signs demanding pay equity for the women players.

The issue was raised in Congress as well, with more than 50 lawmakers sending a letter to U.S. Soccer “to express our disappointment of the inequities in pay, publicity, and investment that the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) has continued to face.”

A bill proposing blocking federal funding for hosting the 2026 men’s World Cup until the issue is resolved was also introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Procter & Gamble, one of the sponsors of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, also stepped into the gender pay gap debate this month, announcing that it would be donating $529,000 to the women’s national team’s players association.

“Now that the Women’s World Cup is behind us, a common understanding of key facts will also help advance our shared work to grow women’s soccer in America as well as the larger national discussion about equality,” Cordeiro wrote in the letter.

But Levinson maintained that the figures presented are misleading at best.

“The USSF fact sheet is not a ‘clarification.’ It is a ruse,” Levinson said in a statement.

“Here is what they cannot deny. For every game a man plays on the MNT he makes a higher base salary payment than a woman on the WNT. For every comparable win or tie, his bonus is higher. That is the very definition of gender discrimination,” Levinson added. “For the USSF to believe otherwise, is disheartening but it only increases our determination to obtain true equal pay.”

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Frieda Powers

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