The U.S. Soccer Federation has backed down after a six-year legal battle and has agreed to fork over $24 million in pay and bonuses to U.S. women soccer players to bring them up to the scale male players are paid.
According to the agreement, the women players will all split $22 million — which is only about one-third of the damages they sought in their lawsuit. The league is also chipping in $2 million to benefit players after they retire as well as programs to help grow the sport of women’s soccer, the New York Post reported.
In the future, the league will pay female players the same rate that male players are now paid. In addition, the women will also now receive the same World Cup bonuses that the men get upon reaching the tournament.
KASHIMA, JAPAN – AUGUST 02: Alex Morgan #13 of Team United States (2R) stands for the national anthem before the Women’s Semi-Final match between USA and Canada on day ten of the Tokyo Olympic Games at Kashima Stadium on August 02, 2021, in Kashima, Ibaraki, Japan. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
U.S. Women’s National Team star Megan Rapinoe celebrated the settlement.
“For our generation, knowing that we’re going to leave the game in an exponentially better place than when we found it is everything,” Rapinoe said. “That’s what it’s all about because, to be honest, there is no justice in all of this if we don’t make sure it never happens again.”
YOKOHAMA, JAPAN – JULY 30: Adrianna Franch #18 and Megan Rapinoe #15 of Team United States stand for the national anthem before the Women’s Quarter Final match between Netherlands and United States on day seven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at International Stadium Yokohama on July 30, 2021, in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
“It’s so gratifying to feel like we can start to mend a relationship with U.S. Soccer that has been severed for so many years because of the discrimination that we faced,” Women’s soccer star Alex Morgan added. “To finally get to this moment feels like we can almost sigh a breath of relief.”
“This is just one step towards rebuilding the relationship with the women’s team. I think this is a great accomplishment, and I’m excited about the future and working together with them,” said USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone. “Now we can shift the focus to other things, most importantly, growing the game at all levels and increasing opportunities for girls and women.”
One major point the league argued for the disparity in pay is that the women’s teams earn far less as a league.
Just a look at the viewership of the tournament games is telling. The men’s team brings far, far more fans to their World Cup games than the women’s teams. In 2018, the Men’s World Cup garnered 3.6 billion total viewers worldwide. That viewership brought $6 billion in profits to FIFA, the international soccer league. On the other hand, the last Women’s World Cup in 2015 only saw 764 million viewers. That is a huge disparity and an essential marker in what the two leagues earn from the fans.
Men’s soccer brings more fans and more of the fan’s money to the sport. And now that the league is being forced to pay its female players millions more in salary and bonuses, that is millions more the league will not earn to help keep the whole thing going.