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U.S. Soccer Announces Historic Equal Pay and Collective Bargaining Agreement

USWNT celebrate 2019 World Cup Win (Photo Credit - Getty Images)

The United States men's and women's national soccer teams have ratified new collective bargaining agreements with U.S. Soccer. The new CBA includes an equal split of World Cup bonuses, as well as further play protections with parental leave for both men and women. 

The formal fight for equal pay in U.S. soccer began six years ago, when five of the USWNT’s most prominent players—Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Hope Solo—filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), accusing the federation of wage discrimination. That was followed by a lawsuit in 2019, in which the entire USWNT sued for “institutionalized gender discrimination,” citing the pay gap plus a lower standard in playing conditions, from where they played to how they got there.

The USSF is not the first federation to equalize salaries between its men’s and women’s soccer teams. Since the women of the USWNT filed their equal pay lawsuit in 2019, other countries including Australia and Ireland have reached equal pay deals with their men and women’s soccer teams. This is, however, the first equal-pay deal in soccer that equalizes FIFA prize money. 

The two CBAs will go into effect on June 1 and will last until the end of 2028. The U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association (USNSTPA), which represented the men's players, had been operating without a CBA since the end of 2018. The deal for the U.S. Women's National Team Players Association (USWNTPA) expired at the end of 2021, though it had been extended. 

U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlowe Cone talked about the ratification of the CBA saying she was involved on the players side, and to now be the president pushing this through feels great. With both contracts being negotiated Cone said it was the perfect time to get everyone on the same page saying,

"But we couldn't do it alone," Cone said. "We needed both the men's players and the men's [union] and the women's players and the women's [union] to come together in one room to negotiate a contract.”

While this win is incredible, it is important to look at the fight these women have been chasing since Cone was playing with the 99ers. Player’s association president Becky Sauerbrunn recognized that the new agreement was reached only because of “the strong foundation laid by the generations of women’s national team players that came before the current team.” After winning four world cups and four Olympic gold medals, the USWNT settling this long-fought battle for equal pay and equality in every area of the workplace is a weight off their shoulders. 

Historical Significance for Soccer and Other Sports

This deal is historic not just for soccer, but for all sports. NJ/NY Gotham FC forward Midge Purce spoke about the effect they hope this will have.

“This isn’t a one hit wonder,” Purce said. “I think what this CBA does is it finally creates that 'One Nation. One Team.' And I think that it's really brought us together under that ideology that we've been chasing after for a really long time."

The new CBAs achieve equality in other areas, as well. The men's and women's teams will have identical performance-based bonuses for games and competitions. The women's team will no longer be on paid salary through U.S. Soccer, instead being paid through their club team. Instead, they will not have the same guaranteed salaries pay-to-play payment structure as the men's team has always had.

"The ability to do that has come a lot from the strength that the NWSL has gained in the past few years," Purce said. "We have a strong enough league here at home where we can depend on those salaries a little bit more and leave a little more risk up to the national team. And I think that's really helped free up that risk."

There will also be a big change in revenue sharing with players getting an equal percentage cut of the revenue. Both teams also will receive an equal cut of ticket revenue. There also are aspects of the women's deal that are unique as compared to the men's contract, including continued injury protection, childcare and parental leave. 

For matches the USSF controls, which are mostly friendlies that both the men and women play,. players will receive $18,000 for a win, $12,000 for a draw and $8,000 for a loss if the opponent is ranked in the top 25 of FIFA's rankings. For all other opponents, the amounts are $13,000 for a win, $10,000 for a draw and $8,000 for a defeat. For World Cup matches, each player will receive a $10,000 game bonus, plus an additional $14,000 for a win or $10,000 for a tie.

The respective unions will receive 90% of the FIFA bonuses paid at the 2022 and 2023 World Cups and 80% of the bonuses at the 2026 and 2027 editions. All of the funds paid out from those bonus pools will be split evenly among the two national teams. 

"There are tough conversations, but at the end of the day, it is the right thing to do," Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC defender said. "It's something that [the U.S. women's team players] deserve. It's something that they have fought for so hard, and, to be honest, sometimes it does feel like we had just kind of come alongside of them and had been a little late.”

Sports, specifically soccer, still have a long way to go to make things more accessible, diverse, and equal but for now this is a big win for the USWNT.

“We hope that this agreement and its historic achievements in not only providing for equal pay but also in improving the training and playing environment for National Team players will similarly serve as the foundation for continued growth of women’s soccer both in the United States and abroad,” Becky Sauerbrunn said.