U.S. Women’s Soccer – Their Battle for “Equal Pay”- What Would You Decide if You Were the Judge?


U.S. Women’s Soccer – “Equal Pay” dispute -What Would You Decide? Issues with the USWNT and its dispute with The U.S. Soccer Federation. Case goes to EEOC.

Back in March 2016, representing the entire U.S. Women’s Soccer National Team (USWNT), Becky Sauerbrunn, Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe filed a wage discrimination lawsuit to the U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They allege that they are illegally underpaid by the the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF). Back in June, a court ruled that they could not go on strike during the Rio Olympics as it would violate the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Let us look at some of the information and see what you would decide if you were the judge in this case.

The current CBA runs out at the end of this year (2016). Negotiations are quietly underway at this time according to Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated.  http://www.si.com/planet-futbol/2016/12/16/uswnt-cba-mls-expansion-usmnt-bruce-arena-january-camp

Here is a video from the NBC Today show back in March 2016.

Below in “Sources”,  I have several links to other websites including the recent 60 Minutes segment that aired in November 2016. To summarize briefly, on the surface it does seem that the men’s team makes more than the women. But the situation is far more complicated, and one has to wonder whether both sides are telling  all the facts. Is someone hiding something?

Let us look at some of the information that is out there. The below charts and information are taken from various sources around the internet.

The table numbers’ description for below are mine for ease in discussion. Here are some money facts and figures:

This is from the fivethirtyeight article listed below. http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/women-earn-the-glory-while-men-earn-the-money-in-u-s-soccer/

Table 1. Income Source

Friendly wins$18.9K
World Cup roster bonus15.0
Victory tour bonus78.0
USSF World Cup victory75.0
Olympic qualifying bonus15.0
Ticket revenue22.9
Sponsor appearance15.0
Subtotal without salaries240.0
NT salary72.0
NWSL salary54.0
  • Lloyd and Solo: $240,019 each
  • Dempsey: $428,022
  • Howard: $398,495

My notes to the above table:

  1. The men’s players above are Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard. The women players are Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo.
  2. The figures above are in “K” thousands of dollars ( or times $1000).

The below 3 tables (tables #2, #3, and #4) are taken from starsandstripesfc.com below: (http://www.starsandstripesfc.com/2016/6/1/11827482/understanding-us-soccer-response-uswnt-eeoc-wage-complaint

U.S. Soccer is pointing at the top earning women out-earning the top earning men as a conclusive sign that they treat the NTs fairly.

Table 2. Compensation between 5 unnamed women (WNT) and men (MNT) at USSF.

ussf response table 1
ussf response table 1 /

Table 3. Game revenue and compensation  comparisons from 2008 to 2015.

Table 4.

The writer for the starsandstripesfc.com article, Stephanie Yang, made some calculations between reported numbers to EEOC and other revenues listed in the table below:

The New York Times also had some interesting tables, but none of them “copy and paste” well on this format. But I did “snip out” an interesting segment below.

 The below is taken directly from the New York Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/sports/soccer/usmnt-uswnt-soccer-equal-pay :

"How Are the Players Paid?The pay plans differ for the men’s and women’s national teams, who have their own players’ associations and negotiate their own collective bargaining agreements. The women’s team’s pay is a mix of a base salary — $72,000 for the majority of players on the regular roster — plus a modest game bonus ($1,350) for each game won. (The women do not receive game bonuses if they tie or lose matches.) U.S. Soccer also pays the salaries of the national team players who compete in the N.W.S.L., the nascent American women’s professional league, as well as providing some health insurance benefits, severance pay for players cut from the team and maternity leave at half pay if they become pregnant.Journalism that matters.More essential than ever.SUBSCRIBE TO THE TIMESThe men, meanwhile, operate on a pay-for-play system: Those players who are called in for matches are eligible for roster and game bonuses considerably higher than those paid to the women, but a player must be called into camp to receive anything. So when Tim Howard took a year off after the 2014 World Cup, he earned no pay from U.S. Soccer for the games he missed. Any player who is injured, or one who is on the fringes of the national team player pool and is not called in for months or years, receives nothing until he returns to camp. The security net is that every male player in the pool, unlike the women, has the advantage of falling back on a lucrative salary from his professional club."

So, what does the above information briefly tell us?

Table 1 above shows that the top 2 players for each team were compensated differently, that the men obviously out-earned the women. The second table shows that for 5 players each that the women earn on average about $600,796., while the top 5 men earn about $404,193. Table 3 shows that although the men earn more revenue, the women earn a higher percentage of the revenue. While Table 4 shows that what the USSF reported to the EEOC does not quite match up with “real life” as illustrated by the “difference” column that Ms. Yang calculated. And the New York Times summary shows that the women have benefits such as paid medical leave and maternity time off, that the men are not compensated for time off due to injury.

But is the information “true”?

Table 1.

Table 1 is somewhat misleading as it apparently shows the differences in bonus money (which was not shown for the men). Therefore, it was not a typical year. However, the men split $2 million dollars for qualifying for the World Cup. But, the women split a $300,000 bonus.

Table 2.

While Table 2 shows that the  top women were paid more than the men. But the above is “top 5” players each. What about 10th, 20th, 50th? This is where the disparity takes place (see NY Times article). However, the U.S. Women only played about 25 to 30 players for years as shown by the 2015 World Cup where Crystal Dunn was discriminated against in favor of Shannon Boxx who had not played many games in years. And also look at the limited number of “caps” that any goalkeeper not named Hope Solo has received in years. So, obviously, the farther down the ladder for the women the less they get paid, as they did not play.





Table 3.

The USSF will undoubtedly use Table 3 as “concrete evidence” that the men bring in more money, therefore, the men “deserve” more money. This one is tricky. As of now, as far I know, the USWNT and USMNT are the only gender based sports teams in the U.S. where the employers are the same entity. The closest equivalent previous was the WNBA and the NBA were part of the NBA until 2002. But now there may be teams linked the WNBA to the NBA, but not all, and the NBA league no longer does run the WNBA.

However,, it is legally possible for an employer to reward one person over another based on performance. This is especially true in sports, or else all contracts would be the same.

But can you pay differently based on an entire gender? A common analogy could be that in an imaginary factory where women make certain items and men make other objects. Could it be legal to give pay increases to the men, but not to the women because the men’s items sell more?  Is that discrimination? Or does this fall under the concept of rewarding one’s pay based on performance according to “supply and demand”?

Table 4.

Honestly, without more information, Table 4 is a mystery to me. Perhaps it is a mystery to the EEOC? But this table is typical of a lot of information out there. On the surface, it looks “obvious”, but when you inspect the data more closely, you notice peculiarities. Should not the “difference column” in table 4 be zero if all the information is factual? Or is the USSF hiding something?

NYT article

And the article snippet from the New York Times shows that women have certain advantages over the men, such as maternity leave. But is that enough to make up differences elsewhere?

Another video:


But what is really going on here?

There is something interesting that is going on as far as negotiations. There is a lack of information from the U.S. Women’s team’s representative Rich Nichols and the players themselves. What do they exactly want?

Carli Lloyd hinted at it during the 60 Minutes interview  (link at bottom of page), They want more than the U.S. Men’s Soccer team (USMNT). Now, isn’t that still discrimination? After all, they work for the same employer (the USSF), and granted, they should be paying them equally. But now the women are trying to discriminate the other way, and that could be a problem (legally and “image-wise”).

Lloyd said “Because we win.” during that interview as the reason they want more. This is fine, but the women’s team has played all but 2 of their friendlies since 2014 on U.S. soil (not counting tournaments on neutral sites). The men had to travel 11 times during the same time span. The women have abandoned the Algarve Cup for a new home tournament, the SheBelieves Cup. Both teams had an Olympic and World Cup cycle during this time frame as well.

Even on FIFA’s site http://www.fifa.com/fifa-world-ranking/procedure/index.html for calculating their rankings, it is expected that the home team will win about 66% of the time. So, right there, the women should win more than the men. According to my math. since 2014, the US Women have won 58 times, lost 5, and had 12 draws. The men on the other hand, have 28 wins, 17 losses, and 9 draws. And, yes, the women do outperform the men by double the points (186 to 93, by using 3 points per victory, 1 point per draw). Therefore, that argument is valid.

Is Playing in CONCACAF Really “Hard Work”? Especially on Home Soil?

CONCACAF is a weak federation for the men’s and women’s soccer. So, in either case, the men and women should win the majority of games. If this was UEFA, then the story would be different. If the women had the same winning percentages playing European teams on European soil all the time, and if the men had the same mediocre record,  then the case for the women making a lot more money would be warranted. But most CONCACAF women’s teams overall, except Canada are worse than several top level Division I colleges. And I would expect all the men’s teams in CONCACAF to lose to UEFA Champions League teams in general if they were to meet.

But, that is the difference, in women’s soccer, the best teams are the national teams, where the men, the best teams are clubs mostly in Europe. And as everyone knows, the MLS is second tier compared to English Premiere League, Bundesliga, and other “soccer nations” leagues. But should that affect the way there is a difference in pay between the men and women? The real answer is “no”,  but does it come into play during CBA negotiations? I do not know.

What About TV Revenues?

From the Socceramerica article below:


"A look at comparable types of games on English-language television show that these differences:+212% 2014 Men’s World Cup group stage vs. 2015 Women’s World Cup group stage+87% 2014 men’s send-off games vs. 2015 women’s send-off games+70% 2015 men’s friendlies vs. women’s friendliesEven when you include the record 25,400,000 viewers who watched the 2015 USA-Japan final on Fox, the U.S. men outdrew the U.S. women by 74 percent for their World Cup games."

Not quite 2:1 , but almost twice as many people watch U.S. Men on TV than U.S. Women.

This issue is far too complex to be adequately detailed in one article. I will admit a lack of knowledge as I am not an accountant, nor l am not a legal expert to understand the complexities of contracts and other judicial matters. But, hopefully some of the key issues were addressed here to give the casual soccer fan an overview of what is happening so far.

According to Jeff Kassouf, currently editor at FourFourTwoUSA,  the U.S. Women cannot go on strike without a 60 day notice. So, there could be negotiations for a considerable length of time.

Jeff Kassouf‏@JeffKassouf
Jeff Kassouf‏@JeffKassouf /

"So when that ball drops on 2017, there won’t suddenly be a USWNT without a single player. Only if/when there are 60 days notice."

To summarize, if the USWNT and the USMNT should be paid equally. The CBA should be written that each be paid the same for any international game as well as any sponsorship within the NWSL or MLS. The bonus structure should be the same.

If I were the judge deciding this case, my solution would be something like this for both the men and women:

  • $1500 per game played.
  • $10,000 bonus for each game won during World Cup, $2500 for qualifying victories. Something like $200,000 bonus for winning the World Cup (maybe $125K and $50K for silver and bronze).
  • No Olympic bonus as the men as a rule cannot go to the Olympics, because they have a “U23” format. Unless, you want to add the men’s Copa America tournament as a substitute, and the women keep the Olympics. If so, the bonus structure would be half of the World Cup money.. http://www.ca2016.com/
  • Maybe $85,000 National Team salary.
  • $60,000 salary for MLS and NWSL.
  • As a guess, 25% of revenue from the games and TV deals.
  • Finally, 1 year salary (league amount) for injury time. And  of course yearly reviews to see who is worthy of the National Teams. (I recommend a camp in January, and invite 75 to 100 players to compete to make it fair.) The top 30-40 players are then allocated to the NWSL and MLS.
  • Maintain a pool of 35 to 50 players (equally) for both sides. The more, the merrier, and therefore, more competition to make sure no one becomes “complacent” on either national team.
  • Assuming a non-World Cup or Olympic year, that is about $175,000 for about 20 “friendlies” and a full league schedule. That pay could easily double on the years that the team does well at the World Cup.

Is my proposal a reasonable idea? Or should this be a case where the men should earn more because in a typical year, they earn more revenue?

In my opinion, I  hope that the EEOC rules in favor of making things EQUAL for the men’s and women’s teams. Case closed. Discussion over. But nothing is ever easy, is it? Or else people would have done the “right thing” in the first place. I forgot, “right thing” and “money” seldom go hand in hand. But the sad thing is that maybe everyone involved, the USMNT, USWNT, and the USSF all probably want “too much”. So, the EEOC has their work cut out for them.

So, if you were the judge, jury, or the EEOC, how would you rule? Pay the women more than the men, pay the women less than the men, or make it the same (for both genders)? Or would you keep it the same as it is now, and negotiate the agreements separately, and treat each case differently based on revenues, etc.?

I want to thank you, the reader, for your time, and of course, all of my sources below. Please check out these websites:


Here are several articles that will hopefully show the differences in pay between the U.S. Soccer Men’s vs Women’s teams. The charts and information above were taken directly from these sites. Some of these may or may not be referenced above.












Abby Wambach's questioning of foreign-born USMNT players is getting embarrassing






Here is the link to the entire 60 Minutes  segment: