The USWNT’s fight for equal pay

Despite being four-time Women’s World Cup champions, the US women’s national soccer team (USWNT) is still fighting to receive equal pay with their male counterparts. Thirty-eight players of the USWNT recently filed a lawsuit against their employers, US Soccer, for gender discrimination.

The USWNT raise the trophy after winning their fourth World Cup in France in July.


  • 1963 -> The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits wage discrimination on the basis of sex
  • 1964 -> The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin
  • 1985 -> The women’s national team plays their first ever game
  • 1991 -> The USWNT wins the first ever Women’s World Cup
  • 1999 -> The USWNT wins their second Women’s World Cup at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California in front of a crowd of 90,185 people
  • 2015 -> The USWNT beats Japan 5-2 in the Women’s World Cup final to secure their third Women’s World Cup title
  • 2016 -> Five members of the USWNT file a complaint against US Soccer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  • March 8, 2019 -> 38 members of the USWNT file a lawsuit against US Soccer for gender discrimination; alleged that US Soccer violates the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • July 7, 2019 -> The USWNT wins their fourth Women’s World Cup title, the most of any women’s team
  • August 14, 2019 -> Mediation talks between the USWNT and US Soccer break down
  • March 10, 2020 -> US Soccer lawyers argue in a court filing that women athletes are less skilled and work less demanding jobs than their male counterparts
  • March 12, 2020 -> US Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro resigns over comments made by US Soccer lawyers in a court filing
  • May 5, 2020 -> Trial set to begin

Comparing the teams

YEARS ACTIVE1916 – present1985 – present
Chart comparing the USWNT to the USMNT.

Based on this chart, it is obvious that the women perform much better than the men on the international level. The men have never won a World Cup, and they even failed to qualify in 2018, while the women have won four World Cups, going back to back in 2015 and 2019. Women from the United States that have won a FIFA Player of the Year award include Mia Hamm (twice!), Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd, and Megan Rapinoe. Rapinoe was the latest USWNT player to win the award last year.

Despite these statistics, the USWNT’s contract still allows them to be paid less than the USMNT. While the women have been paid more in recent years, it is solely because of their success and the lack of success from the men’s team.

Unequal pay by US Soccer and FIFA

Image describing the pay gap between the USWNT and USMNT.

The women’s and men’s national teams have different contracts with different pay structures, but when comparing the overall pay of the USWNT to the USMNT, the women are paid drastically less. Both teams play 20 friendlies a year. A friendly is a game that does not count towards tournaments of any type.

According to the graphic, if the USWNT wins all necessary games in a year they will be paid around $99,000. However, it the USMNT win all 20 games, they will be paid around $263,000. This pay gap is based on the contracts of the men’s and women’s teams, which proves that US Soccer deliberately pays the men’s team more.

Image describing the pay gap in the prize money at FIFA World Cups.

A large pay gap between men’s and women’s teams is not only an issue in the United States. FIFA is the international governing body of soccer for the world, and they are in charge of the prize money for the World Cup and Women’s World Cup.

In 2018, the total prize pool for the World Cup was $400 million, while the total prize pool for the 2019 Women’s World Cup was $30 million. When the USWNT won their fourth World Cup in July, the team shared a prize of $4 million, meaning that each player received around $150,000 for winning the world’s biggest trophy for women’s soccer. Moreover, when France’s men’s national soccer team won the 2018 World Cup, each played on the team received around $1.5 million.

Reasons for equal pay

Arguments for why the USWNT does not deserve equal pay point out viewership, revenue and total profit for US Soccer, and the thought that men are inherently better than women due to biological differences. However, many reasons for equal pay prove these claims to be false.

As stated previously in this article, the USWNT perform substantially better than the USMNT on the international stage. When a team continues to win over and over again like the women do, there should not be a reason to deny equal pay.

The USWNT takes the team photo with their warmup shirts inside out, hiding the US Soccer crest while still showing the four World Cup stars, in protest of comments made by US Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro.

The USWNT also broke many records at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. The team now holds the record for the most goals scored in a single World Cup game for men or women. This record was broken when the USWNT beat Thailand 13-0 in their first game of the tournament. The USWNT also now holds the record for the most goals scored throughout the entire World Cup with 26 goals, the most of any men’s or women’s team.

Both the USWNT and USMNT represent the United States at the international level, so why are the teams paid like they are from different countries? The motto of US Soccer, “One nation, one team,” is not truly represented in the pay of the women’s team.

Megan Rapinoe’s iconic celebration after scoring the first goal of the 2019 Women’s World Cup final.

In recent years, the ancient argument that the USWNT is paid less because they bring in less revenue than the USMNT has been proven invalid. As reported by Forbes, “From 2016 to 2018 … U.S. women’s soccer pulled in about $50.8 million in gate revenue, while U.S. men’s soccer only pulled in $49.9 million.” This statement proves that the revenue that is being brought in for US Soccer is almost half and half. If the USWNT is bringing in revenue that is close to equal with the USMNT, why is there still a pay gap?

The USWNT arrive in New York after winning the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “About 14.3 million Americans tuned in to watch the U.S. Women’s National Team claim its fourth World Cup title … Viewership for the match … surpassed the audience for the most recent men’s World Cup final …  About 11.3 million Americans watched the final in 2018 …” This statistic proves that the argument that the USWNT does not have the same viewership and the USMNT is now outdated.

The USWNT’s 2019 home jersey is also the number one selling soccer jersey, men or women’s, ever sold on in one season.

Overall, based on statistics, there is no true reason why the US women’s soccer team should be paid less than their male counterparts. Hopefully , the trial for the lawsuit will go in their favor, and this fight will finally be over. But for right now, we continue to push for change.

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