U.S. Soccer Equalizes Pay in Milestone with Women, Men

The U.S. Soccer Federation reached milestone agreements to pay its men’s and women’s teams equally, making the American national governing body the first in the sport to promise both sexes matching money.

On Wednesday, the federation ended years of bitter negotiations by announcing separate collective bargaining arrangements with both unions in December 2028.

A CBA was in effect for the men, but it expired in December 2018. The women’s CBA expired at the end of March but talks continued after the federation and the players agreed to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit brought by some of the players in 2019. It was necessary that the federation reached labor agreements which equalized the pay and bonus between the teams.

“I feel a lot of pride for the girls who are going to see this growing up, and recognize their value rather than having to fight for it. However, my dad always told me that you don’t get rewarded for doing what you’re supposed to do — and paying men and women equally is what you’re supposed to do,” U.S. forward Margaret Purce said. “So I’m not giving out any gold stars, but I’m grateful for this accomplishment and for all the people who came together to make it so.”

The biggest problem was World Cup prize money. It is determined by how far an individual team progresses in the tournament. While the U.S. women have been successful on the international stage with back-to-back World Cup titles, differences in FIFA prize money meant they took home far less than the men’s winners.

The unions agreed to pool FIFA’s payments for the men’s World Cup later this year and next year’s Women’s World Cup, as well as for the 2026 and 2027 tournaments.

The USSF stated that each player will receive matching game appearance fees, making it the first Federation to pool FIFA prize money.

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“We saw it as an opportunity, an opportunity to be leaders in this front and join in with the women’s side and U.S. Soccer. So we’re just excited that this is how we were able to get the deal done,” said Walker Zimmerman, a defender who is part of the U.S. National Team Players Association leadership group.

The federation previously based bonuses on payments from FIFA, which earmarked $400 million for the 2018 men’s tournament, including $38 million to champion France, and $30 million for the 2019 women’s tournament, including $4 million to the champion United States.

FIFA has increased the total to $440 million for the 2022 men’s World Cup, and its president, Gianni Infantino, has proposed that FIFA double the women’s prize money to $60 million for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, in which FIFA has increased the teams to 32.

For the current World Cup cycles, the USSF will pool the FIFA funds, taking 10% off the top and then splitting the rest equally among 46 players — 23 players on the roster of each team. In 2026/27, the USSF will take 20% off the top and then split the rest equally among 46 players — 23 of the roster for each team.

After missing the 2018 World Cup, the men qualified for this year’s World Cup in Qatar starting in November. The women’s team will seek to qualify this year for the 2023 World Cup, cohosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Similar game bonuses will be given to players in lesser tournaments such as the ones run by North America’s governing body. For exhibition games, players can earn matching appearance fees or performance payments depending on match results and the opponent rank. Players who don’t dress will earn a fee that is the equivalent of participating in a national team training camp.

They gave up the guaranteed base salaries that had been part their CBA from 2005 to these women. Some players received guaranteed annual salaries up to $100,000.

“I think we’ve outgrown some of the conditions that may look like we have lost something, but now our (professional) league is actually strong enough where now we don’t need as many guaranteed contracts, you know, we can be on more of a pay-to-play model,” Purce said.

Children care for mothers who have been married for over 25 years will now be available to them during matches and national training camps.

Women and men will also receive commercial revenue for tickets to matches managed by USSF. Bonuses for sellouts will be paid, as well as a share of sponsor, broadcast and partner revenue.

Players will get a 401(k) plan and the USSF will match up to 5% of a player’s compensation, subject to IRS limits. The commercial revenue share will deduct this money.

“There were moments when I thought it was all going to fall apart and then it came back together and it’s a real credit to all the different groups coming together, negotiating at one table,” said federation President Cindy Parlow Cone, a former national team player who became head of the governing body in 2020. “I think that’s where the turning point really happened. It was difficult to reach a CBA agreement with women, then negotiate terms for the men, and vice-versa. I think the real turning point was when we finally were all in the same room sitting at the same table, working together and collaborating to reach this goal.”

Six years of legal battles over equal pay ended by women in February. A deal called for $24 Million from the USSF. It was conditional on new collective bargaining agreements.

The settlement will see players split $22million, which is about one third of their damages claim. USSF agreed to create a $2 million fund to help players with their careers after soccer and to support charitable work aimed at growing women’s sport.

Mark Levinstein, counsel for the men’s union, said the agreement ended “more than 20 years of federation discrimination against the USWNT players.”

“Together with the USWNTPA, the USMNT players achieved what everyone said was impossible—an agreement that provides fair compensation to the USMNT players and equal pay and equal working conditions to the USWNT players,” he said. “The new federation leadership should get tremendous credit for working with the players to achieve these agreements.”

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