• Kyle Winquist

Closing the Gap…Sort of?


[1]

In response to an open letter sent by U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone, the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) and United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) have begun yet another attempt at equalizing pay, an issue the USWNT has publicly voiced concerns about for the past four years. After their arguments were thrown out by Judge Gary Klausner of California in a May 2020 decision, USWNT star Megan Rapinoe stated “We believe in our case and know our value. It’s time the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) does too”. [2]


As it stands, while both a part of the United States Soccer Federation, the USMNT and USWNT operate under separate collective bargaining agreements. [3] The women chose a stabilized compensatory structure opting to receive an annual $100,000 salary attached with a bonus of $3,500 per international match while the men earn $17,625 per friendly with the opportunity for a $1 million bonus per player if they win the World Cup [4]. With the USWNT’s current CBA set to expire at the end of 2021, conversations with the USSF about a new and equal proposal have begun. The question is: will an attempt to equalize pay be at the expense of the men’s team?


The main point of conversation regarding a single CBA agreement between the respective national teams and the USSF involves equalized bonuses from World Cup participation. [5] The federation has stated in its most recent offer that bonuses will be equalized but failed to explain how. [6] This is where the controversy lies. While the federation has not explicitly laid out a plan of action, one can assume that a possible solution will involve a “share the wealth” mindset.


FIFA recently announced a proposal stating the 2022 Men’s World Cup participants will receive $440 million per country. In addition, they proposed $60 million per country for the 2023 Women’s World Cup participants. [7] While $60 million is quite an increase from the $38 million offered at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, there is still a significant gap in pay. [8] The USSF simply does not have an extra $380 million laying around to equalize the bonuses as they promised they would. So how will they solve this problem? A likely solution (or an attempt at a solution) is that the two bonuses ($440 million from the Men’s World Cup and $60 million from the Women’s World Cup) will be combined into one pool of money and then evenly distributed amongst both the USWNT and USMNT players. [9] Does this solve the problem? Well, sort of.


Yes, in the end this would equalize the World Cup bonus issue between the men and women. However, it would require the men to take a significant pay cut. While they have voiced their support for the women regarding an increase in pay, it is hard to believe they would be willing to take such a significant reduction in pay. This seemingly takes a lot of the responsibility away from the USSF and places it on the USMNT. A number of observers speculate this is exactly what the federation is hoping for. [10]


Ultimately, if this were the proposal, it would come down to the men agreeing to a significant pay cut. Quite frankly, the USSF know the men would not agree to this proposal which they can then respond to the USWNT, “Well, we tried”. This would get them off the hook. [11] Consequently, the motives of the federation are bought into question. Do they truly wish for equal pay? An anonymous source recently stated that the equalized World Cup bonus issue was being used “as a weapon” to make the federation look like “the good guy”. [12] In other words, it is all about the optics.


While the perfect solution might be far-fetched and ultimately a fight against FIFA, achieving equal pay for the four-time World Cup champions is an issue that requires a great deal of attention. [13] Given the recent light shed on gender discrimination in combination with the simple idea that women deserve to be compensated fairly, it is of great importance that this issue finds a solution that 1) fulfills USSF’s promise to equalize the World Cup bonuses 2) is done with the proper motive and 3) serves as a commitment to closing the pay gap allowing women to be compensated fairly in a country struggling to accept that.




References:

[1]: Brouwer, R. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/soccer/2019/07/09/uswnt-future-roster-2023-womens-world-cup-olympics-lavelle-pugh-morgan-rapinoe


[2]: Petri, A and Das, A. (Sept. 10, 2021). “The U.S. women’s soccer team files an opening brief in their ongoing equal pay lawsuit”. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/24/sports/olympics/us-womens-soccer-equal-pay-lawsuit.html


[3]: Baer, J. (Sept. 14, 2021). “U.S. Soccer offers identical contracts to USMNT and USWNT”. Retrieved from https://sports.yahoo.com/us-soccer-offers-identical-contracts-usmnt-uswnt-001147312.htmlguccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAM_PDZ_LZL19gXdVEj-xzv88gldd4ozr_6Zg9pwF36EpVMx6rptGKLDOIyYEaWs7y6rncsSh6ErgSxgZ_7287Pwi8hrcbOv0DfGnKVZGaMJglh9xqZ115C7GuHXLG6Kj6_VlW0aQaV12zazBaHL5zOb7CL-xcIo3tjkSEfuYEjSZ


[4]: Id.


[5]: Carlisle, J. (Sept. 14, 2021). “U.S. Soccer offers men’s, women’s teams identical contract proposals”. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/soccer/united-states-usaw/story/4475503/us-soccer-offers-menswomens-teams-identical-contract-proposals


[6]: Fels, S. (Sept. 15, 2021). “U.S. Soccer offers equal pay to USMNT and USWNT…kinda?”. Retrieved from https://deadspin.com/u-s-soccer-offers-equal-pay-to-usmnt-and-uswnt-kind-1847679033


[7]: Carlisle, supra.


[8]: Id.


[9]: Fels, supra.


[10]: Carlisle, supra.


[11]: Id.


[12]: Id.


[13]: Fels, supra.