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How U.S. Soccer and Its Players Solved the Equal Pay Puzzle

by News Desk

World Cup money? The men received multiple times more even if, as the women regularly noted, the women won championships and the men struggled to make it out of the first round.

The problem with different pay structures, of course, was that they led to different payments. And the men almost always wound up with more.

The new contracts announced this week will end the women’s guaranteed-salary system and put both senior teams on the pay-for-play model.

The decision to pursue guaranteed salaries had always been a strategic calculation by the women: While the men traditionally earn the bulk of their income from their club salaries, the nascent women’s professional game — far behind in its development — offered much lower salaries, even to its stars. Guaranteed incomes from U.S. Soccer, then, offered the security of a consistent wage, and ensured that a female player who got injured, or pregnant, wouldn’t lose her house or her car.

Switching to the pay-for-play model carries some risk for some women: A player who falls out of favor, and off the U.S. Soccer payroll, could tumble out of the sport without a consistent income beyond her club salary. But for the top players — who now earn bigger salaries from their club teams — the prospect of higher match payments, shared World Cup payouts with the men and revenue-sharing splits with U.S. Soccer was clearly worth it.

Under the terms of the new deals, which run through 2028, both men and women will receive $8,000 just for being called into a camp for most games, and a $10,000 bonus for each one they win. For the women, that means a doubling of match fees, for more than a dozen games a year.

What’s the bottom line? Projections shown to the women’s team, and shared with The New York Times, estimated annual payments from U.S. Soccer of as much as $450,000 a year, and potentially double that — or more — after a good World Cup cycle. Those figures should be similar for top men’s players.

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