Column: Women’s national soccer team should be paid what it's earned

In this July 5, 2015, file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Five players from the World Cup-winning U.S. national team have accused the U.S. Soccer Federation of wage discrimination in an action filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

The United States women’s national soccer team, known colloquially as the USWNT, is entering into a fight against wage discrimination. On March 31, 2016 five members of the USWNT filed a suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation demanding that their pay reflect their success.

Though the USWNT just won their third World Cup and brought in over $20 million for U.S. Soccer, they are still paid less than half of their male equivalents. It’s time for U.S. Soccer to move into the modern era and pay these players what they deserve.

The USWNT is arguably one of the most lauded national teams in the world. Goalkeeper Hope Solo put it very eloquently in an interview this past week: “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships and the [men] get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”

Their achievements have brought a level of profitability surpassing the U.S. men’s team; yet by the numbers, U.S. Soccer underpays the women by millions of dollars.

To put these numbers in perspective, the United States men’s national soccer team (USMNT) was paid $20 million after only making it to the round-of-16 in the 2014 World Cup. Comparatively, the USWNT made only $9 million to split between its all-star squad including Carli Lloyd, winner of the 2015 FIFA World Player of the Year.

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said that the bargaining agreement with the USWNT is not based on the skill or merit of the players, but by the economy they create. In other words, Gulati is not in favor of equal pay for equal work. But that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise for many, especially after ex-USMNT forward and U.S. soccer legend Landon Donovan said on Twitter that he “is not for equal pay, [he’s] for fair pay.”

For these women, soccer is their career. Instead of paying them based on their worth, U.S. Soccer is paying them based on a system of inequality and ratings, even as the USWNT brought in a staggering $20 million after their latest World Cup victory.

Apparently for Jill Ellis, USWNT head coach, that is $200,000 per year. While that is a sizable sum, it is absolutely nothing compared to the $3.2 million that Jurgen Klinsmann makes as head coach of the men’s national team. 

It is hypocritical that we can call ourselves a progressive nation in the light of what has been shown here. Sports are revered in this country. As a nation, we put billions of dollars into sports from the national level to the international level and even to the collegiate level.

Soccer is a sport that is overlooked by most Americans, even as our women’s squad sits atop the world rankings. If we are committed to fairness and equality, then we should pay them based on what they have earned.

Gulati and Donovan both seem to be in favor of fair pay. It is also clear that the women’s team is far more successful, yet they are provided with fewer resources. The U.S. Soccer Federation sets budgets in four-year periods based around the World Cups. If pay were based upon merit, Jill Ellis and Klinsmann would swap salaries, given the recent and continued success of Ellis and the USWNT.

Further, if U.S. Soccer is committed to improving viewership numbers for the women’s national team, the advertising budget would reflect such a split. It is even conceivable that a portion of the money spent on USMNT could be put toward the USWNT. 

However, taking away money and resources from the USMNT for the USWNT is not fair to the players and coaches, and will not solve this problem. The men’s team and coaches don’t deserve to be punished for what they have or have not achieved, but there should be changes made to the way the women are paid. Soccer is one of the largest, if not the largest, sports industries in the world.

The money to pay the women what they are worth is out there. If U.S. Soccer wants to be taken seriously, they need to fix this massive pay gap.


Amar Batra is a contributor to the Daily Campus opinion section, and is also a staff photographer. He can be reached via email at amar.batra@uconn.edu. He tweets at @amar_batra19.