After six years of litigation and negotiation, the US Soccer Federation reached an agreement with the teams’ unions to pay both their women and men’s teams equally, the first national governing body in the sport to do so.
Before the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) were solidified, the women’s soccer team was woefully underpaid – despite having won four World Cups. During the 2019 World Cup, for instance, the US women’s team received a bonus of $110,000 for winning the tournament. Had the men’s team won, they would have been awarded $407,000.
The US federation’s pay scale for bonuses was previously modeled on FIFA’s prize money scale. FIFA paid the US women’s team $4 million dollars for becoming the 2019 champions. Conversely, the US men’s team in 2018, had they qualified and exited in the first round, would have gained $8 million, and during the 2019 World Cup, the men’s team from France garnered $38 million for becoming champions.
The CBA for the women’s team technically expired in March of this year, but the momentum of negotiations has been ramping up since the women’s team slapped the federation with a gender discimination lawsuit in 2019, leading to a settlement agreement. The settlement, which paid out $24 million in damages (about one-third of what the women’s team demanded), was contingent on establishing new CBAs to guarantee equal pay between the teams. The lawsuit was settled in February and announced earlier this month, and the new agreements will last until 2028.
The consecutive successes of the national women’s team has inspired more women to become professional soccer athletes, and new leagues are being formed to bridge the gap between college and professional careers, such is the case for the United Soccer League (USL) and their new women’s division (USL W).
Eagle F.C., based in Mechanicsburg, has become the first and only team representing Pennsylvania among 44 US semi-professional teams in the USL W.
Hannah Young, a midfielder on Eagle F.C.’s roster, expressed her excitement about this opportunity. “A lot of girls growing up would like to dream about professional soccer—and they do,” she says. “But then they get older and realize there’s not much opportunity. But now this league will inspire little kids to keep dreaming and not give up. A huge thing in life and sport is belief.”
Leagues like the USL W and the new CBAs for the national team will help address some of the inequities women in America are facing professionally. In Pennsylvania, wage disparity is even greater than the national average. According to the Women’s Law Project, women in Pennsylvania are paid 76 cents to every dollar men receive (compared to the national average for women at 83 cents per dollar), and without significant changes, Pennsylvanian women will not receive equal pay until 2072 (versus 2058 for American women on average). USL W has made it their mission “to use women’s soccer as a force for societal good by creating a national platform to increase opportunity, gender equity and career development.”
“I hope we can set the precedent for the women’s teams that will be coming after us, who will want to strive to be better than us, and that it will keep building and spreading and getting better,” said Lexi Johnson of Eagle F.C.
Women in sports across the country are pioneering the way towards equity. “I think the U.S., in particular,” says Eagle F.C. midfielder/forward Meg Tate, “struggles with having women in leadership, in sports. Right now, comparably, there are so many less women than men involved in sports. So, this is a great opportunity to bring more women’s sports out in the world.” Perhaps other governing bodies, like FIFA, will soon follow in the direction of the US Soccer Federation.