Women’s History Month: Equal Pay for U.S. Women’s Soccer Team

Posted by on Mar 3, 2022 in Current Events

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team won two consecutive World Cup championships in 2015 and 2019–yet the players were still making thousands of dollars less than the U.S. men’s team. The men’s team didn’t even qualify for the World Cup in 2018. Members of the women’s team filed a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation in 2019 to demand equal pay. At the end of February 2022, the lawsuit was settled. The women’s team players will now receive over $22 million dollars in back pay.

A female soccer goalie diving to catch the ball in front of a soccer net
The U.S. national women’s soccer team won a historic legal settlement.

A Long (and Difficult) Road

Some female players on the U.S. Women’s National Team first sued the U.S. Soccer Federation in 2016. They questioned why they were being paid thousands of dollars less than male players at the same level. Then, after winning two consecutive World Cups, all 28 members of the team sued again in 2019. The lawsuit, which was filed under the Equal Pay Act, had two parts: equal pay and equal working conditions. The U.S. Soccer Federation responded badly, saying that male players deserved to be paid more because of the superior speed and strength required to play men’s soccer. Fans were outraged at these statements, and in the wake of the backlash, Carlos Cordeiro, the president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, resigned.

But a federal judge dismissed the case in May 2020, saying that the gap in pay structure was fair because the women had agreed to their contract through collective bargaining. Their contract was different than the men’s because they have a different union. (The part about unequal working conditions was settled out of court in December 2020.) However, several players on the women’s team filed an appeal in July 2021. Their persistence paid off when U.S. Soccer agreed to a settlement last week.

The settlement states that the U.S. Soccer Federation will pay $22 million in back pay to the players. The federation will also put $2 million into a special fund that the players can apply for to fund their post-career goals, or to help fund their charitable endeavors related to women’s and girls’ soccer. Furthermore, the federation has promised to pay male and female players equally for all games, tournaments, and the World Cup from now on.

What Now?

The players, who have been fighting for equal pay for more than five years, had initially hoped for $66 million in back pay. While the settlement falls short of this, team captain Megan Rapinoe says they are very happy with the outcome. The women’s players’ union agrees.

The settlement isn’t quite final yet. First, the players and the U.S. Soccer Federation will have to agree to the new contract. Then the district court will approve the new terms. Both parties in the settlement are optimistic that everything will be finalized by the end of March 2022.

Dig Deeper The owners of the Kansas City Current—a professional women’s soccer team in the U.S.–announced that they will build the first stadium specifically for women’s soccer. Use Internet resources to learn more about this plan. Where will the stadium be? How much will it cost to build? How many spectators will it seat? Most importantly, why is this stadium an important step for women’s soccer (and women’s sports in general)?