Three years ago, the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) filed a $24 million gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation. This week, after a prolonged and public battle, the players association for the US women’s and men’s national teams negotiated a groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement.
“The accomplishments in this CBA are a testament to the incredible efforts of WNT players on and off the field,” said USWNT player and players association President Becky Sauerbrunn in a statement. “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.”
The agreement enshrines a number of new protections for both teams, but most importantly, the agreement creates equal pay structures and mandates that the U.S. Soccer Federation share the World Cup prize money equally between both the men and women’s national teams.
It’s a first for any soccer federation in the world. All others take in the money from FIFA, which awards more prize money to the men’s World Cup than the women’s, and distributes it according to FIFA’s discriminatory pay practices. But now, not only will the USWNT athletes get equal pay for their matches, they also will get equal prize money for equal successes.
A clause mandating the sharing of prize money is crucial considering the USWNT impressive record: Four World Cup wins, four Olympic gold medals, and FIFA’s world No. 1 ranking for five straight years. The men’s team, by comparison, failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2018 and haven’t appeared in a quarterfinals or better at a World Cup since before 2002.
Under the previous rules, had the men’s team qualified in 2018, they would have likely received first-round exit prize money worth $8 million – double what the USWNT took home for winning the 2019 Women’s World Cup. France, the men’s 2018 World Cup champions, took home $38 million in prize money — more than the entire pool on offer to the 24 women’s participants the following year.