• Kyle Winquist

U.S. Soccer's Historic CBA Deals


[1]


May 18, 2022 marked a historic day in United States Soccer history, one that will forever be remembered as a day where the mere words “One Nation. One Team.” truly united the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) and the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT). Player’s unions for the respective teams announced ratified collective bargaining agreements (“CBAs”) in coordination with the United States Soccer Federation that, for the first time, conquered international soccer’s gender pay gap.[2] Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC defender and member of the men’s player’s union, stated “they said equal pay for men and women was not possible, but that did not stop us and we went ahead and achieved it.”[3] This monumental step comes in the wake of the USWNT’s lawsuit for equitable treatment with respect to player compensation.[4] While the case was settled for $24,000,000 in February, it was contingent upon a ratification of the current USMNT and USWNT CBAs.[5] Finally, after years of justified frustration and persistent demands for change, equal pay has been achieved on one of soccer’s biggest stages.


Equal Performance Earnings


Although each CBA is separate, the two agreements are intertwined to compensate both the men’s and women’s players equally through 2028.[6] Most of the change will occur on the women’s side, completely altering their pay structure to a per-game basis as opposed to a previously guaranteed salary.[7] The men have less of an adjustment, with their compensation structure already on a per-game basis. For international friendlies against opponents ranked inside FIFA’s top 25, the USWNT and USMNT players will earn $18,000 per win, $11,000 per tie, and $8,000 per loss.[8] Broken down, an $8,000 appearance fee is standard regardless of the result. Outcome based bonuses bridge the gap with $10,000 for a win, $3,000 for a tie, and $0 for a loss.[9] Similarly, for friendlies against opponents outside FIFA’s top 25, an $8,000 appearance fee is accompanied by slightly less game bonuses: $5,000 for a win, $2,000 for a tie, and $0 for a loss.[10]


The importance of qualifying for the World Cup is top priority for any international soccer federation. The United States Soccer Federation is no exception and has increased compensation for World Cup Qualifying matches as an added incentive to secure qualification.[11] The appearance fee is set at $10,000 while the game bonuses for a win or a tie are increased to $14,000 and $4,000 respectively.[12]


At the conclusion of the 2022 Men’s World Cup and 2023 Women’s World Cup, prize money awarded by FIFA for the United States’ performance will be combined into one pool and evenly distributed amongst all United States participants.[13] 90% of the prize money will go to the players, leaving the remaining 10% to the U.S. Soccer Federation.[14] This same model will be applied to the 2026 Men’s World Cup and 2027 Women’s World Cup as well, however the players will receive 80% of the prize money and the U.S. Soccer Federation will receive 20%.[15] The sum of money will be accompanied by a $10,000 appearance fee per player per match.[16] No in game bonuses will apply to World Cup matches.[17]


Equal Revenue Sharing


In addition to equal performance earnings, equal sponsorship, broadcast, and ticketing revenue, only from home games, will be shared between U.S. Soccer and all USMNT and USWNT players.[18] Depending on the amount of revenue generated, each team will receive a percentage of the total earnings. For sponsorship and broadcast revenue, if between $55-$75 million in generated, each team will receive 10% of the total sponsorship and broadcast revenue.[19] That percentage increases to 15% if the revenue exceeds $75 million.[20]


For ticketing revenue, U.S. Soccer will reserve $5.06 per ticket sale for the players.[21] This share of ticket prices is set from 2023 to 2026 before increasing to $5.75 per ticket sale for the remaining two years of the agreements.[22] However, shared ticketing revenue only applies to home games controlled by U.S. Soccer, World Cup Qualifying matches, and CONCACAF Nations League contests.[23]


Equal Playing/Training Environments


The environments in which the USMNT and USWNT train and play matches will also be equal under the new CBAs.[24] This includes equal quality of venues and playing surfaces at those venues. Historically, there has been debate surrounding why some USWNT matches are played on artificial turf while the USMNT matches are almost exclusively on natural grass. Studies prove that playing on artificial turf increases the risk of injury compared to playing on natural grass.[25] Under the new agreements, the playing surface, along with the size and quality of the stadium (fan capacity, locker room amenities, date of construction, etc.), will be equal.[26]


Additionally, the new CBAs add quality staffing to each team.[27] Coaches, athletic trainers, psychologists, therapists, and anyone else who could potentially be of benefit to the players during their time with the USMNT or USWNT will be present at both teams’ training camps and matches.[28]


Further, hotel accommodations for training camps and away matches are another aspect of the new USMNT and USWNT collective bargaining agreements.[29] The budget reserved for housing players during training camps, friendlies, and tournaments will be equal.[30]


Related to hotel accommodations, travel expenses will also be equal between the USMNT and USWNT.[31] U.S. Soccer will provide an equal number of chartered flights for both teams during training camps, friendlies, and tournaments.[32]


Lastly, a safe work environment is another aspect of the new CBAs.[33] Both agreements include provisions and protections to prevent workplace harassment and player privacy.[34]


Semi-Equal Benefits


Finally, the benefits each USMNT and USWNT player receive will now be equal. Two key benefits include childcare and retirement plans.[35] During training camps, friendlies, and tournaments, U.S. Soccer will provide childcare, allowing the children of USMNT and USWNT players to be accommodated.[36] This was previously only available to the USWNT players; however, under the new CBAs, USMNT players will have the same benefits.[37] A 401k plan will also be implemented into the agreements.[38]


Because the USWNT players have a greater workload than the USMNT with respect to the amount of games played (namely the Olympic Games), select women will be eligible to receive a few additional benefits unavailable to the men.[39] These additional benefits include paid parental leave for a maximum of six months, insurance coverage, and paid time off due to a short-term disability caused by any soccer-related injury.[40]


While no easy task, the USMNT, USWNT, and U.S. Soccer Federation were able to place differences aside to achieve a common goal: supply American soccer players with the same benefits and privileges regardless of gender. Perhaps this groundbreaking achievement will encourage other sports and industries to follow suit both domestically and abroad.




References

[1] Alam, R. Retrieved from: https://www.si.com/.image/t_share/MTg5NTU3MTE1NjY3MzU5MzE2/us-soccer-equal-pay.jpg

[2] Linehan, M. and Stejskal, S. (May 18, 2022). “USWNT, USMNT achieve equal pay: How they reached a historic benchmark”. Retrieved from: https://theathletic.com/3318371/2022/05/18/uswnt-usmnt-equal-pay/

[3] Straus, B. (May 18, 2022). “U.S. Soccer Announces Historic CBA Agreement, Equal Between USMNT, USWNT”. Retrieved from: https://www.si.com/soccer/2022/05/18/us-soccer-cba-equal-pay-uswnt-usmnt-world-cup-prize-money

[4] Das, A. (Feb. 22, 2022). “U.S. Soccer and Women’s Players Agree to Settle Equal Pay Lawsuit”. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/sports/soccer/us-womens-soccer-equal-pay.html

[5] Straus, supra.

[6] Linehan and Stejskal, supra.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] U.S. Soccer (May 18, 2022). “U.S. Soccer Federation, Women’s and Men’s National Team Unions Agree to Historic Collective Bargaining Agreements”. Retrieved from: https://www.ussoccer.com/stories/2022/05/ussf-womens-and-mens-national-team-unions-agree-to-historic-collective-bargaining-agreements

[14] Straus, supra.

[15] Id.

[16] Linehanand Stejskal, supra.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] U.S. Soccer, supra.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Herrera, S. (May 18, 2022). “USWNT, USMNT unions agree to equal pay CBAs with USSF: All players to receive shares of pooled World Cup money”. Retrieved from: https://www.cbssports.com/soccer/news/uswnt-usmnt-unions-agree-equal-pay-cbas-with-ussf-all-players-to-receive-shares-of-pooled-world-cup-money/

[25] Voos, J. (Aug. 27, 2019). “Artificial Turf Versus Natural Grass”. Retrieved from: https://www.uhhospitals.org/for-clinicians/articles-and-news/articles/2019/08/artificial-turf-versus-natural-grass#:~:text=Breaking%20it%20down%2C%20injuries%20in,of%20injury%20than%20other%20sports.

[26] Herrera, supra.

[27] Straus, supra.

[28] Linehan and Stejskal, supra.

[29] Id.

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

[32] Id.

[33] Id.

[34] Id.

[35] U.S. Soccer, supra.

[36] Id.

[37] Id.

[38] Id.

[39] Id.

[40] Id.