Why Does the US Women’s Soccer Team Earn Less than the Men’s?

Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo, US Women's Soccer Team.
Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo, US Women’s Soccer Team.

A couple of weeks ago, members of the US Women’s Soccer team launched a federal discrimination complaint against the United States Soccer Association. According to The Boston Globe:

The disparities, according to documents given to the commission, are found throughout their compensation, from base pay to bonus to per-diem travel. Female players on the national team earn $72,000 for playing 20 regular season games, plus bonuses for winning. Men, however, make a minimum of $100,000 for playing 20 games, get a victory bonus — and a smaller supplement for losing. If both teams won all their games, women would earn $99,000, while men could take home $263,320.

The pay chasm widens when players participate in the World Cup. Female players who try out and make the team earn a total of $30,000 each. Men, however, get $68,750 each. With each advancing round, players get paid more, but the structure favors the men. In 2014, the men’s team earned a total of $9 million for losing in the Round of 16, while the women’s team last year got only $2 million for winning their entire tournament.

Most egregious of all is that the women’s team actually brings in more revenue at home. It’s projected that in the year to come, they’ll bring in $17.6 million to the men’s $9 million in the US.  The popularity of men’s soccer abroad makes the men’s team more lucrative on the international stage. But that didn’t stop Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Hope Solo from filing their complaint. As their lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler says, “They do the same work, for the same employer, for 20 games a year.”

Whatever people might want to claim about living in a “post-feminist world,” the pay gap is alive and well in Hollywood, in professional sports, and in workplaces everywhere. Women still earn 79 cents for every dollar men earn.

This inequity in wages, especially for the same work, shows us the cold hard facts about the extent to which women are undervalued for their work. Their labor is worth exactly 21 cents less per dollar than men’s. So it’s no wonder lower wages follow the jobs where the majority of workers are women.

If you’re cynical like me it came as no surprise that the women’s soccer players earn so much less than the men, and that their earning potential is less than half of what the men’s is.

But it’s also exciting to see a high profile case in which women are challenging the status quo on pay inequity.  We talk about it a lot but it never seems to change.

I’ll be keeping my eye on this case, not just for what it might do to increase the value of women in sport, but for what it might to do show that pay inequity is a form of social injustice and that’s not okay.

4 thoughts on “Why Does the US Women’s Soccer Team Earn Less than the Men’s?

  1. I am indeed cynical like you, hence not surprised at all to hear that. Salaries are lower, careers are much more difficult, university studies are (not always but in many cases) an optional, everything has to be achieved with lots of internal and external fights. I used to be depressed for that. Now honestly I accept this as a matter of facts, cause I need to.

  2. It’s clearly discriminatory in the context of the national teams. My guess is that the counter argument will be based on male earning potential outside of the national teams (MLS). The thing is though, if someone mentions US Soccer, I always assume it’s the women’s team. The men’s team just hasn’t mattered on the international stage in the way the women’s team has.

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