The U.S. Soccer Federation reached milestone agreements to pay its men’s and women’s teams equally, making the American national governing body the first in the sport to promise both sexes matching money.
The federation on Wednesday announced separate collective bargaining agreements through December 2028 with the unions for both national teams, ending years of often acrimonious negotiations.
The deals grew partly out of a push by players on the more successful women’s team, including stars like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, who were at the forefront of the gender equity fight while leading the team to a Women’s World Cup championship in 2019. The struggle became so much a part of the team’s story that chants of “Equal pay! Equal pay!” rose from the crowd as U.S. players celebrated winning the title in France.
Morgan and Rapinoe could still be beneficiaries of the deal, though the next Women’s World Cup is in 2023 and the makeup of the team will have changed by then.
“I feel a lot of pride for the girls who are going to see this growing up, and recognize their value rather than having to fight for it. However, my dad always told me that you don’t get rewarded for doing what you’re supposed to do — and paying men and women equally is what you’re supposed to do,” U.S. forward Margaret Purce said. “So I’m not giving out any gold stars, but I’m grateful for this accomplishment and for all the people who came together to make it so.”
The men have been playing under the terms of a CBA that expired in December 2018. The women’s CBA expired at the end of March, but talks continued after the federation and the players agreed to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit brought by some of the players in 2019. The settlement was contingent on the federation reaching labor contracts that equalized pay and bonuses between the two teams.
Perhaps the biggest sticking point was World Cup prize money, which is based on how far a team advances in the tournament. While the U.S. women have been successful on the international stage with back-to-back World Cup titles, differences in FIFA prize money meant they took home far less than the men’s winners. American women received a $110,000 bonus for winning the 2019 World Cup; the U.S. men would have received $407,000 had they won in 2018.
The unions agreed to pool FIFA’s payments for the men’s World Cup later this year and next year’s Women’s World Cup, as well as for the 2026 and 2027 tournaments.
Each player will get matching game appearance fees in what the USSF said makes it the first federation to pool FIFA prize money in this manner.
“We saw it as an opportunity, an opportunity to be leaders in this front and join in with the women’s side and U.S. Soccer,” said Walker Zimmerman, a defender who is part of the U.S. National Team Players Association leadership group. “So we’re just excited that this is how we were able to get the deal done.”