A new ally has emerged in the USWNT’s fight for equal pay from a potentially surprising source: the men’s team. The women’s national team had filed a claim against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) in 2019 arguing the players had been victims of discrimination and were paid significantly less than the men’s national team, despite being more successful than the men’s team. The women asked for damages in excess of $66 million, which included backpay for previous performances. In May of 2020, a judge in California dismissed the claim stating that the women players were actually paid more than the men and they had accepted the same pay-to-play structure as the men’s team. As a result, the players appealed, arguing that they receive less money than the men’s team for each game played, which is the definition of sexism and discrimination.
The men’s team filed an amicus brief in favor of the women’s team as part of the female player’s appealing of their claim against the USSF for equal pay. In the brief, the men’s team argued that the women’s team had been underpaid and discriminated against. They further stated that the Federation did not even offer the women the same pay as the men’s team when the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was being negotiated. Additionally, the brief argued that the judge had ignored the fact that the women’s pay depended on performance, while the men’s pay depended solely on games played. While the judge stated that the women had actually made more than the men, the brief clarifies that the women had maximized their performance bonuses, while the men’s team had underperformed. Perhaps the most scathing statement was the brief stating that “U.S. Soccer has persistently treated the women as second class throughout the 35-year history of the Women’s National Team.”
This appeal is not going to be resolved any time soon, with oral arguments not set to be scheduled for another 9-12 months after briefs are submitted this September. In the meantime, the women’s team will continue to complete in the Tokyo Olympics, while the men’s team failed to qualify for the third straight Olympics. The Men’s World Cup is set to take place in 2022 where FIFA has set the total for prize money at $440 million. However, the men’s team failed to qualify in 2018 and the team’s best finish occurred in 1930, where the team placed second. Meanwhile, the Women’s World Cup is set to take place in 2023 where FIFA has set the total prize money at $60 million, which is double of the last Women’s World Cup. The women’s team is the most successful women’s team in history, winning four times.
With the USWNT’s performance since the 2015 World Cup win, which pushed the women’s team onto the national stage, female soccer players have been household names and idols to young athletes everywhere, male and female. Youth soccer numbers have soared as a result of the team’s success and has generated a newfound interest in soccer in a football-dominated country. While the fight for equal pay will not be done for the women’s team any time soon, the added support of the men’s team demonstrates strong support for women’s athletics and shows that sports in general are better when everyone is rewarded for their success.