Megan Rapinoe’s Gladiator pose. Alex Morgan’s tea-sipping celebration. Rose Lavelle securing victory for the U.S. women’s team with a left-footed goal on a hurt hamstring.
The United States’ World Cup run gave us so many iconic moments, and the incredible ladies of the USWNT poured their hearts and souls into every single play. That’s what makes it even more unconscionable that the repeating world champs have to fight so hard for the chance to be paid fairly, which is exactly what they’re poised to do now that the World Cup is over.
The women of the USWNT are national treasures when it comes to excelling at their sport on a global stage. They’ve hoisted the World Cup trophy four times since the tournament’s institution in 1991 (including winning the first Women’s World Cup), and have brought home four Olympic gold medals since women’s soccer was introduced to the Games in 1996. According to Nike, the USWNT home jersey is the top selling soccer jersey they’ve ever sold. In a notable shift from the American norm, U.S. women’s soccer generates more revenue than its male counterpart, according to financial statements obtained by the Wall Street Journal. From 2016 to 2018, women’s games brought in about $50.8 million in revenue compared to $49.9 million from men’s games.
Despite their success, the USWNT continues to be paid significantly less than their male counterparts.
The breakdown of the standard USWNT contract is roughly this: for each qualification game a rostered member of the U.S. women’s team wins, she receives $3,000 (the 2019 team won all 5 games, for a total of $15,000). If the team makes the tournament, the player will receive a payout of $37,500; if she makes the final World Cup roster, she will receive an additional $37,500. If her team wins the entire World Cup, she will receive a cash prize of $110,000, reaching a maximum total of $200,000 (not including additional income from sponsorships or money earned from their upcoming four-game victory tour).
In stark contrast, qualifying for the tournament alone would earn each member of the USMNT a payout of $108,695. While the USWNT earns nothing for advancing to the knockout stage, the members of the men’s team would receive a bonus of $329,376 for the same achievement. If they won all of their qualifying games and the player was on the World Cup winning roster (for the maximum payout), he would be eligible to earn more than $1.1 million in prize money. However, the U.S. men’s team has not made it past the quarterfinals since placing third in the first World Cup in 1930.
The difference in funds allotted to the Men’s and Women’s World Cup shows a pattern of sexism on a global scale. The total payout available in the 2018 men’s World Cup was $400 million, with France (the winning team) receiving $38 million in prize money for their victory. In comparison, the women’s World Cup had just $30 million available in total prize money, of which the winning team received just $4 million.
These are examples of the unfair treatment that prompted 28 members of the USWNT to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation on March 8th (International Women’s Day, of course) for “institutionalized gender discrimination.” The lawsuit challenges discrepancies between the WNT and MNT in vital areas like access to training resources and safe playing surfaces, scheduling issues, and the increasingly marked pay gap. The plaintiffs are seeking back pay and damages for any U.S. women’s national team member who played from early 2015 through today, which could result in a payout worth millions of dollars if the USWNT wins the suit.
You can support their fight. If you admired Megan Rapinoe’s grace under intense public pressure, buy her jersey. If you want to see Alex Morgan’s quick feet in person, find out when the Orlando Pride will be in town (or any other team—just go). Watch games on TV or stream them. Show the USSF and FIFA that you care about women’s soccer. Show up.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino heard the crowd loud and clear as he approached the podium for the World Cup postgame ceremonies: “Equal pay! Equal pay!”
Let’s keep the chant going.
Photo credit: USA Today