Equal Pay for Equal Work

By | April 1, 2016


On March 31, 2016 Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo filed an action with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of the entire United States Women’s National Team that accused the U.S. Soccer Federation of wage discrimination. In the lawsuit they claim that they are paid almost four times less than their male counterparts on the Men’s National Team despite their constant superb performance over the past few years, capped with a world cup championship this past summer. In a statement, Hope Solo said, “The numbers speak for themselves. We are the best in the world, have three World Cup Championships, four Olympic Championships, and the USMNT get paid more just to show up than we get paid to win major championships.”

And the numbers really do speak for themselves. In the EEOC filing, the women cite several statistics found in the federation’s 2015 financial report that highlight the disparity between men’s and women’s pay. If they win 20 friendlies, the minimum number they are required to play in a year, they would only earn $99,000 each, but for accomplishing the same feat men would earn $263,320, even making $100,000 if they lost all 20 games. Playing beyond this minimum requirement does not lead to any additional pay for women, while the men make between $5,000 and $17,625 for each game played beyond 20. Additionally, even though they won the Women’s World Cup the Women’s team only received $2 million whereas the men made $9 million for getting knocked out in the round of 16.

There are several arguments that have been used to justify the lower wages for the women’s team but two of the main arguments claimthat 1) they do not draw large viewership and 2) they fail to generate substantial revenue. But these arguments are nullified considering the fact that the women’s world cup final was the most watched soccer game in U.S. history and their run through the tournament generated almost $20 million more in revenue than the men’s team last year. Some assert that men do not want to see women play soccer but the head of business operations for Fox Sports said that the demographics for the post–World Cup broadcasts of NWSL games were a “healthy mix between male and female viewers.”

By all quantifiable metrics, the women’s team has more than outperformed the men’s team in virtually every category but still earn over four times less because of one thing; their gender. These women have suffered through a variety of obstacles that have only arisen because they are viewed as inferior in the world of soccer. Last summer they were forced to play on artificial turf for the world cup, a pitch that would cause any men’s team to boycott the game, and last December they arrived at the Honolulu Aloha Stadium to find the turf protruding with rocks and ripping at the seams. While the federation has upheld that it has been a large supporter of women’s soccer and has invested large sums into the NWSL, their support should not diminish the women’s team’s right to at minimum earn equal pay for equal work.


ESPN Staff. “U.S. women’s team files wage-discrimination action vs. U.S. Soccer.” ESPN.com. Last updated 1 April 2016. http://espn.go.com/espnw/sports/article/15102506/women-national-team-files-wage-discrimination-action-vs-us-soccer-federation (accessed on 1 April 2016).


Fox Sports Staff. “USWNT players suing U.S. Soccer for wage discrimination.” Foxsports.com. 31 April 2016. http://www.foxsports.com/soccer/story/uswnt-accuse-soccer-federation-of-wage-discrimination-033116 (accessed on 1 April 2016).


Mitchell, Elizabeth. “Soccer Wars: How US Soccer mistreats World Cup-winning Women’s National Team.” NYDailyNews.com. 30 March 2016. http://interactive.nydailynews.com/2016/03/how-us-soccer-mistreats-world-cup-winning-womens-national-team/ (accessed on 1 April 2016).

6 thoughts on “Equal Pay for Equal Work

  1. Lopa Rahman

    Excellent post, Austin. Given that the current gender wage gap is 79 cents on the dollar, it is asinine that USWNT players make approximately 40 percent less than their male counterparts (http://time.com/money/4277843/us-womens-soccer-equal-pay/). I think you do a great job of refuting two of the most common arguments against paying women equally by noting the viewership for the 2015 Women’s World Cup Championship in the U.S. and the revenues generated by the USWNT in last year’s tournament. I want to add onto that by pointing out that the USWNT’s revenue is projected to increase even more in 2016 and 2017. Here is a link to an article containing a chart with revenue projections: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/united-states-womens-soccer-equal-pay_us_56fd37e3e4b0daf53aeee5d7. The USWNT is expected to generate $2M more than the USMNT in 2016 and $8M more in 2017. I also want to say that viewership and revenue aside, women deserve equal pay because of the historical discrimination they have faced. As we learned from Gail Newsham’s book about the Dick, Kerr Ladies, women were failed historically. The adverse circumstances they dealt with included but are not limited to bans, access to fewer resources, and little to no recognition. The fact that women have not received the same opportunities as men in soccer means that revenue and viewership shouldn’t dictate their pay, though as we both have observed, even impressive revenue and viewership numbers haven’t been enough to get the USWNT the pay they deserve. I am glad women on the national team are taking a stand.


  2. Alikhan Mukhamedi

    Great post, Austin!
    I must disagree, however. Football is an entertainment, and football players are entertainers. Their payments should be proportional to the amount of revenue they bring. Even though USWNT won the World Cup and USMNT got knocked out in the round of 16, 2014 Men’s World Cup reached 3.2 billion viewers (http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/news/y=2015/m=12/news=2014-fifa-world-cuptm-reached-3-2-billion-viewers-one-billion-watched–2745519.html) while 2015 Women’s World Cup had a viewership of 750 million people (http://www.fifa.com/womensworldcup/news/y=2015/m=12/news=record-breaking-fifa-women-s-world-cup-tops-750-million-tv-viewers-2745963.html). Also, most revenue comes from TV rights, and FIFA, not US Soccer Federation, allocates money. So it doesn’t matter what the viewership is in the States, because FIFA only considers world viewership, and based on that, decides how much money to allocate.
    One unfair thing should change though, women football indeed needs more money for development. Until then, however, I can’t see a way of making USMNT and USWNT wages equal.

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  4. Cali Nelson

    If we are examining the concept of equal pay, another disparity worth noting is that of the salaries of the USMNT and USWNT’s managers. Klinsmann is making about $2.6 million a year to coach the 30th ranked team in the world, a team that has been underperforming, and you could argue mismanaged, recently to the point that there have been some calls for him to be fired. Meanwhile Jill Ellis was making about ~$200,000 a year while she led the USWNT to a World Cup win. While there were some hiccups in tactics along the way, she was lauded for her adjustments in the final and semi-final matches that revitalized the USWNT’s attack. She has been given a new contract, the terms of which won’t be known until later this year, but I would bet that her compensation is still no where near that of Klinsmann’s. She’s doing the same job as Klinsmann, and the team under her management is outperforming and out earning (in terms of revenue) their male counterparts. If we are truly serious about the concept of equal play, equal pay, it should apply to Ellis as well.

  5. Carolyn Fishman

    What a great post. I wanted to add a little bit to the statistics. First of all, the fact that a US team could lose 20 friendlies and still make more money than another US team that won 20 friendlies solely because of gender is absolutely absurd. Another thing that I found staggering was that men’s players can make bonuses in games that they lose or tie, whereas the women cannot. The New York Times has a great graphic that really helps you visualize the discrepancy in pay. ((http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/03/31/sports/soccer/us-women-soccer-wage.html))
    There is nothing I respect more than these five women stepping forward to demand a change. In our day and age, when women are consistently still making less than men – you can find statistics that back this up almost anywhere, one example is on Glassdoor.com with tech jobs (https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/10-tech-jobs-women-earn/) – there is nothing better than female leaders having the courage to try to end this disparity. As in the tech world, where a male computer programmer does the same thing as a female computer programmer but makes $1.00 compared to $0.72, a male soccer player and female soccer player do the same job and yet the male makes more money. They practice the same amount, they play games of the same length, and yet the women have generated more revenue and popularity for the game than the men. And all the women ask for is equality.
    Being progressive is a good thing. If the US Soccer Federation is able to handle this more quickly than the concussion suit that was mentioned above, they have the potential to be leaders in a huge step toward equality. But what will it take to expedite this and assure that it happens? Who will be the first male soccer player to publicly voice support for his female counter-parts?

  6. Ben Jackson

    I whole heartedly support the Women National Team in this manor, and really like the way they went about this. I especially like how the movement is spearheaded by Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd, arguably the two most popular current Women’s National Team. Additionally with a combined 4.1 million twitter followers all five women have the ability and popularity neccessary to generate a great swell of fan support and put a lot of pressure on the US soccer federation to change their wages. It will be interesting how the US soccer federation handles the lawsuit though especially coming off the concussion suit. The concussion suit, which just raped up in November, forced the US soccer Federation to eliminate the header from official matches between kids under 10 years old and reduced header training in practices until the age of 13. The concussion suit which took about a year to resolve was considered cut and dry by many but still took a year of squabbling with the federation to be resolved. This lawsuit is a lot more convoluted and could last a lot longer especially if the US soccer federation drags its feet.


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