Should the women's U.S. soccer team players be paid the same as the men’s?


Fact Box

  • The legal fight officially began in April 2016, when five top women’s players filed a wage discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In their filing, the players said they were being shortchanged on everything from bonuses to appearance fees to meal money [1].
  • The women's team generated $101.3 million over ten years and 238 games versus $185.7 million generated by the men's team over the same timeframe and 191 games [2].
  • The women's team generated $900,000 more revenue than the men's team from fiscal year 2016 to 2018 [3].
  • The United States Women's National Team won the World Cup on July 8, 2019, continuing its title as the number one women's soccer team in the world [4].
  • The women’s and men’s teams ended up with substantially different agreements. The female players agreement allows the women to be compensated largely through salary guarantees, with additional opportunities for performance-based bonuses. On the men’s team, players do not earn salaries, but only bonuses, and therefore the men are only paid when they play [5].
  • Women generally end up paying more for things because of the so-called “Pink Tax”, which defines as “...not actually a tax but rather a system of discriminatory pricing on products and services that is based on gender. The Pink Tax costs the average woman $1,300 a year and impacts all aspects of daily life from shopping to dry cleaning [6].”

Veronica (No)

Popularity, which generates revenue, plays a role in pay. Many jobs pay based on generated revenue. It's called merit-based pay. It's exceedingly common, and not at all unfair. 

While the women's team has outperformed the men's team in recent seasons, the women's team has generated less revenue than the men's team. The women's team generated $101.3 million over ten years and 238 games versus $185.7 million generated by the men's team over the same timeframe and 191 games [1].

The women's team refused a comparable pay-to-play scale like the men's team in favor of one that fit the preferences of the team [2]. Men's players are paid out only if they play and only on bonuses and prize money. The women's agreement, however, includes a $100,000 base salary for all players, whether or not they play, and includes benefits like medical, dental, and retirement plans [3].

Not including benefits, the women's team is paid MORE than the men's team since salary and bonuses amounted to $34.1 million for the women's team versus $26.4 million for the men's team [4]. This equal base salary for all women's players inflates the overall cost of the team's payroll. If it were increased to match the men's team players who actually play, the payroll discrepancy would be astronomical in favor of the women's team, even though they don't generate as much revenue and also receive costly benefits.

Finally, both teams are paid based on contracts that are union negotiated during collective bargaining [5]. If either team has an issue with their current pay model, this is something they should take up with their union, not the courts.

Tyler (Yes)

Generating more financial revenue than the men's U.S. soccer team, the women's team deserves to be paid equally, if not more than the men's. The Wall Street Journal reported that through 2016-2018 the U.S. women's soccer team (USWNT) raised $50.8 million, while the men's team (USMNT) brought in $49.9 [1]. However, a lawsuit filed by the USWNT alleged that if both teams participated in an equal-length season, the men's team would receive salaries of $150,000 more per player than the women's team [2]. CNBC reported that the USWNT's 2019 World Cup victory received approximately three million more viewers than the men's World Cup in 2018 [3]. From a marketing perspective, the USWNT's merchandise is much more lucrative. The 2019 USWNT home jersey was the highest-selling soccer jersey in the United States - men included [4].

The USWNT's financial triumphs over the men's team can be correlated to the women's team's far superior performances in recent competition. The USWNT team has won four World Cup trophies in the past 30 years, most recently in 2019 [5]. On the contrary, the men's team failed to qualify for competition in the recent 2018 World Cup [6]. While the USWNT has won half of the World Cup tournaments they have competed in, the men's team hasn't placed in the tournament since 1930 [7].

The U.S women's national soccer team's performance in recent World Cup tournaments and financial dominance over the men's team prove that they are being paid unfairly.

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