Offensive strategy? US Soccer says female team paid more than men

Salary and bonus information was released ahead of federal mediation over ‘institutionalized gender discrimination’.

US Women''s Soccer team in NYC May 24 2019
United States Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro in a letter detailed payments made to players on the FIFA 2019 Women's World Cup Champions team but a spokesperson for matters involving a federal gender discrimination lawsuit against the USSF referred to it as a 'ruse' [Seth Wenig/AP]

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) says the players on the football World Cup women’s national team were paid more than their male counterparts from 2010 through 2018.

According to a letter released Monday by USSF President Carlos Cordeiro, the federation has paid out $34.1m in salary and game bonuses to the women as opposed to $26.4m paid to the men. Those figures do not include benefits received only by women, like healthcare.

The federation released the figures as it moves towards mediating a federal lawsuit in which players for the women’s team accused the USSF of “institutionalized gender discrimination” that includes inequitable compensation when compared with players on the men’s team.

Comparing compensation between the two teams is difficult because the pay structure is based on different collective bargaining agreements. For example, players for the women’s team have a base salary while the men are paid based on matches and performance.

“In the weeks ahead, we’ll focus on preparing for mediation and resolving this matter in the best interests of the WNT and US Soccer. I want you to know that US 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.”

Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the players in matters involving the lawsuit, called the 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 US 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.”

Cordeiro said the federation recently conducted an extensive analysis of its finances over the past 10 years, seeking to clear up what he called confusion based on the pay structures for both teams.

The USSF said it pays the women’s national team players a base salary of $100,000 a 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 healthcare benefits and a retirement plan.

Conversely, players on the men’s national team are paid by training camp call-ups, game appearances and through performance bonuses. The federation says the men can earn higher bonuses than the women. The collective bargaining agreements are not made public, and US Soccer did not provide details about the men’s bonus structure.

The USSF also says the men’s team generates more revenue. The women’s team generated $101.3m throughout 238 games between 2009 and 2019 while the men generated $185.7m over 191 games, according to the federation.

The analysis did not include prize money for tournaments like the World Cup, because those funds are determined by FIFA, football’s international governing body, and not by the USSF.

The letter comes amid increasing pressure on the USSF in the wake of the women’s victory at the World Cup earlier this month. After the US defeated the Netherlands in Lyon, France, to win a second straight title, the crowd at the stadium chanted “Equal Pay! Equal Pay!”

During the World Cup, more than 50 members of Congress also sent a letter to the USSF “to express our disappointment of the inequities in pay, publicity, and investment that the US Women’s National Team [USWNT] has continued to face.” Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia introduced a bill that would withhold federal funding that would go towards hosting the 2026 men’s World Cup until the issue was resolved.

Cordeiro said in the letter that the federation decided to focus on winning the World Cup rather than debate the lawsuit.

“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,” he wrote.

Levinson maintains the figures provided by the USSF are misleading.

“The USSF fact sheet is not a ‘clarification’. It is a ruse. 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 said in a statement. “For the USSF to believe otherwise, is disheartening but it only increases our determination to obtain true equal pay.”

Source: AP