By McKenna Larson
In March 2019, 28 players of the US National Women’s Soccer Team filed a lawsuit against the legislative body United State Soccer Federation (USSF) for unequal pay and poorer working conditions compared to their male counterparts at the national level of professional soccer. The wage disparities are seen at all avenues of national soccer, from yearly pay to sponsors being able to exclusively represent the women’s team and not the men’s, to vastly varied tournament rewards. For comparison, the winner of the Men’s World Cup in 2018, France, was awarded $38 million by FIFA whereas the winners of the Women’s World Cup in 2019, the USA, were awarded $4 million by FIFA, despite the teams playing at the same level of the same sport.
After years of back and forth, with the USSF initially not relating by stating that female soccer players were not deserving of the same paycheck as male players at the national level, the Federation finally settled the suit on February 22, 2022. The class action suit was settled for $24 million, a far cry from the $66.7 million in back pay that the players originally wanted, but there is a commitment by the USSF to close the wage gap between the two national leagues.
While there are still negotiations to be made and policies to alter in regard to bonus structures, and the FIFA controlled tournament money, the settlement is considered a win overall in the advancement of women’s sports and closing the gender wage gap. The new President of USSF, Cindy Parlow Cone, has stated her intentions to work with FIFA to further equalize the pay for female athletes.
Megan Rapinoe, star midfielder for the team, was one of the most vocal publicly about the class action suit and brought to light the disparities in treatment for female athletes despite professional skill and status. In interviews with NBC, Rapinoe has said that “For us, this is just a huge win in ensuring that we not only right the wrongs of the past, but set the next generation up for something we only dreamed of.” The hope from the entire USNWT soccer club is to protect future generations of female athletes from the blatant discrimination they have faced. An official statement from all Women’s National Team players stated “Today, we recognize the legacy of the past USWNT leaders who helped to make this day possible, as well as all of the women and girls who will follow.” Hopefully, this lawsuit will start the ball rolling on equalizing wages for other sports, and ultimately close the gender wage gap that has haunted working women in all industries.