Leagues and Governing Bodies

USSF reaches landmark equal pay deal for men's and women's teams

U.S. Soccer has "reached landmark collective-bargaining agreements” with its men’s and women’s national teams that “align the teams’ pay and create a unique mechanism to share prize money from their respective World Cup competitions,” according to Rachel Bachman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The CBAs “follow years of legal pressure” on the USSF from USWNT members and “achieve what the women had been seeking: equal pay.” The new agreements attempt to eliminate the teams' "different pay structures" by creating "identical economic terms" for both. For friendly games, the USSF will “pay men’s and women’s players the same roster appearance fees and performance payments,” based on the "outcome of the match and the rank of the opponent, with the same tiering structures." Men’s and women’s players will “earn the same game appearance fees" for official competitions, including the World Cup. For official competitions outside the World Cup, men and women also will “earn the same game bonuses.” The deals also make an "extraordinary bid to erase a disparity that is beyond the control of U.S. Soccer: the gulf in prize money" between what FIFA awards for the men’s and women’s World Cups. The USWNT's ‘19 title “came with a $4 million prize," while the winner of the '18 men's tournament was "awarded $38 million.” The USSF said that the new deals make the U.S. the first country where national teams have "agreed to pool and share their prize money from the tournaments.” The federation also will “share a portion of its broadcast-rights and sponsorship revenue with the men’s and women’s teams, another first” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/18).

MAKING CONCESSIONS: In DC, Goff & Hensley-Clancy write in agreeing to the CBA, the U.S. men are “making a substantial concession," potentially taking home "less money in World Cup bonuses than they would have previously, especially if they advance deep in the tournament.” The women will “probably receive much higher bonuses.” USMNT D Walker Zimmerman said, “I totally understand the immediate frustrations. But getting to where we are, I think everyone is really proud to get this deal done and be the first to do it (in the world).” Besides the World Cup money, the agreements “will end guaranteed salaries for the women’s players” and instead “pay them at the same rates as the men for achievements such as roster selection and team performances.” The men were “not paid a salary” by the USSF, an issue that “complicated the women’s argument for equal pay.” For similar non-World Cup tournaments, players on both teams also will “earn equal amounts of total prize money.” The teams also will “receive a share of the revenue from tickets sold at USSF-organized home matches.” Both teams will “receive bonuses for games that are sold out.” The CBAs also ensure “equal playing venues, staffing, charter flights and hotel accommodations” (WASHINGTON POST, 5/18). USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone said, "We need to give the men a lot of credit. They came to the table and were very collaborative and worked together with the women’s PA first and then came together with U.S. Soccer" (“Today,” NBC, 5/18).

USSF's outlay for single-game payments cement the status of the U.S. men and women as two of the highest-paid national teams in the worldGetty Images

THE COST OF EQUALITY: In N.Y., Andrew Das writes labor peace “will be expensive.” The USSF has “committed to single-game payments for most matches of $18,000 per player for games won, and as much as $24,000 per game for wins at certain major tournaments” -- cementing the status of the U.S. men and women as two of the “highest-paid national teams in the world." The federation also will “surrender as much as 90 percent of the money it receives from FIFA” for competing in the World Cup to the men’s and women’s players. Despite its cost, the new equal pay policy has “incalculable value for all involved,” as it will end a "six-year battle that battered the federation’s reputation, threatened U.S. Soccer’s relationships with important sponsors, and ran up millions of dollars in legal fees on every side of the fight.” Resolving the fight "amicably, rather than in court," could make it "easier for the federation to attract new sponsors and rebuild bonds with its most prominent players.” And by offering the teams a share of its commercial revenues, U.S. Soccer has “essentially incentivized its biggest stars to act as partners in finding new ways to increase those revenue streams” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/18). The AP’s Peterson & Blum write that child care, covered for women for more than 25 years, will be “extended to men during national team training camps and matches.” Players “will get a 401(k) plan” and the USSF will “match up to 5% of a player’s compensation, subject to IRS limits.” That money will be “deducted from the shares of commercial revenue” (AP, 5/18).

WORTH THE WAIT: In L.A., Kevin Baxter writes for Cone, re-elected in March to a four-year term, the CBA agreements “end a two-decade fight for equal pay” that began when she was a World Cup-champion player in ‘99. Cone: “When I took over the presidency, this was something I wanted to lead on. To be the first country to come to terms with both the men’s team and the women’s team and their (players associations) to equalize World Cup prize money and equalize everything, every economic term of the contract. ... There were moments when I thought it was all going to fall apart and then it came back together. And it’s a real credit to all the different groups coming together, negotiating at one table” (L.A. TIMES, 5/18). Cone said she hopes this new CBA will “have international ramifications in sport in general and hopefully into the business world as well” (“Today,” NBC, 5/18).

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