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United States’ Megan Rapinoe lifts up the trophy after winning the Women’s World Cup final soccer match between US and The Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, in July 7, 2019.
FILE – Cindy Parlow Cone, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, said the U.S. Soccer equal pay agreement is only a start. “My ideal vision is for FIFA to equalize not only the World Cup prize money, but to equalize their investment in the women’s and girls’ game.”
The United States National Team’s performance in the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup was undeniably a massive step forward for the sport’s popularity in the United States.
Combine that with the solidarity of the men’s and women’s unions with the U.S. Soccer Federation, the men’s play in the World Cup capped off a huge year for the sport on and off the field.
The unions representing men’s and women’s players agreed earlier this year to a contract with the U.S. Soccer Federation that called for equal pay and training facilities for the players representing their country and a split of all World Cup earnings.
“They said equal pay for men and women was not possible, but that did not stop us and we went ahead and achieved it,” said Walker Zimmerman, a starting defender for the men’s team in Qatar and a member of the United States National Soccer Team Players Association leadership group. “We hope this will awaken others to the need for this type of change, and will inspire FIFA and others around the world to move in the same direction.”
As a result, the U.S. men’s team and the U.S. women’s team will split the $13 million the men’s team will be awarded for being one of the final 16 teams in the 2022 World Cup. With 10 percent going to the federation, that paycheck will be $5.85 million per team.
That’s almost as much as the U.S. women earned for winning the last two Women’s World Cups. The women players earned $6 million total — $2 million in 2015 and $4 million in 2019.
The equal pay agreement ensures that the U.S. Soccer’s Senior National Team players remain among the highest paid in the world, according to an article on the USNSTPA website.
But that isn’t good enough for some observers, many who just started paying attention to soccer because the World Cup tournament is under way. Some are arguing the U.S. women shouldn’t get half of the men’s World Cup earnings.
Broadcast journalist Don Lemon at CNN, for example, made comments during a “CNN This Morning” segment that male athletes earn more money than female athletes because men’s sports earn more money than women’s sports. His co-anchors, Kaitlin Collins and Poppy Harlow, argued that male athletes earn more because FIFA and the media give men’s sports a bigger platform.
The women’s game has grown incredibly and its popularity has blossomed in just a short time in the international spotlight. Viewership doubled to one billion during the last World Cup and stadiums are setting records or selling out for NWSL, Champions League and international matches. In the United States, the women’s players enjoy a tremendous amount of popularity and commercial success thanks to winning four World Cups. Hosting and winning the World Cup in spectacular fashion in 1999 was a turning point.
In just seven months, the U.S. women’s team, the reigning Women’s World Cup championship team, will take the field in the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup, hosted by Australia and New Zealand. The Women’s World Cup will feature a field of 32 teams for the first time. Born as a 12-team tournament in 1991, the FIFA Women’s World Cup expanded to include 16 countries when hosted by the U.S. in 1999 and 24 teams when Canada hosted in 2015.
The 24 teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France competed for a prize pool of $30 million. The 32 men’s teams competing in Qatar will split $450 million. That’s why the U.S. Soccer agreement is so important.
Many countries have negotiated equal pay agreements in terms of salary and resources, but when the U.S. men’s union agreed to share the lucrative unequal World Cup prize money, the sport took another giant leap forward.
“No other country has ever done this,” said U.S. Soccer’s president Cindy Cone, a former USWNT member. “I think everyone should be really proud of what we’ve accomplished here. It really, truly, is historic.”
It came down to 28 members of the USWNT in 2019 filing a lawsuit, citing years of ongoing institutionalized gender discrimination over unequal pay and working conditions. In addition to announcing the new equal pay contracts, U.S. Soccer resolved the lawsuit announcing it will pay $22 million to the players.
“My ideal vision is for FIFA to equalize not only the World Cup prize money, but to equalize their investment in the women’s and girls’ game,” Cone told Just Women’s Sports in 2021. “But until FIFA equalizes it, it’s up to us.”
Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, said FIFA’s vast cash reserves total more than $2.7 billion, the New York Times reported in 2019. Given the mistakes and corruption surrounding FIFA’s selection of Qatar to host the World Cup, FIFA would generate positive press by making a significant increase to the 2023 women’s purse. He suggested doubling the purse back in 2019. Look for it to go even higher.
Investing in women’s soccer has proven to be an economically sound decision that also helps the sport at the grassroots level.
And that’s where the women’s and men’s games will continue to grow. Together.
Joyceb10bassett@gmail.com • @joyceb10bassett •timesunion.com/author/joyce-bassett
The North Carolina Tar Heels women’s soccer team will play in their 26th national championship game on Monday against UCLA. The game starts at 6 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU.
This column is sponsored by Times Union Women@Work, the Capital Region’s network of business and professional women. Join today at: https://womenatworkny.com
Joyce Bassett is a sports columnist for the Times Union, specializing in women and girls in sports and golf. She was the creator and main contributor to the Times Union’s Youth Sports blog from 2007-2017. Joyce worked at the Times Union as an editor, graphic and web producer from 1997-2020.
All In: U.S. Soccer solidarity is an investment in the future of the game – Times Union
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