On the field, and within soccer, the United States' women's national team (USWNT) are not equals with their male counterparts (USMNT). They are superior. While the men languish at No. 30 in the latest FIFA rankings and enter their third year without winning a major trophy, the USWNT are the most dominant international sports team the United States has to offer.
Winning the 2015 World Cup created a new tidal wave of popularity for the team -- they set the television record for the highest rated soccer match in U.S. history, and the 2015 World Cup was the most-watched soccer event Americans have ever tuned in to. This exceptional level of success only helps to maintain girl's soccer as the country's highest-participated youth sport, and more broadly, asserts the USWNT as the face of American soccer globally. By virtue of their stacked trophy cabinet, the USWNT wield vast influence over global soccer. The USMNT do not.
For those clear reasons, our "equal pay for equal work" moral obligation and for revenue details from U.S. Soccer's own budget, the women not only deserve equal pay, but actually more money than the men. Inside U.S. Soccer's pay scale, the USWNT are not equals with the USMNT, and for reasons that defy economic and moral logic. Within a 96-page lawsuit filed on Thursday against U.S. Soccer, the sport's governing body, by the USWNT, contain damning budget projections by U.S. Soccer showing that the USWNT are set to pull in more revenue than the USMNT for 2016 and 2017 -- two crucial years of the men's own World Cup cycle ahead of Russia 2018. In 2017 alone, the USWNT will generate $8 million more in revenue for U.S. Soccer than the USMNT. See for yourself:
The gap between projected revenue -- $23 million for the USWNT and $21 million for the USMNT -- in 2016 stands at $2 million, but, as demonstrated by the revenue detail, the USWNT's revenue is set to nearly double what the USMNT will haul in ($17 million to $9 million) in 2017.
And yet, the men will outearn the women by an outrageous amount in 2016. As espnW pointed out, if the USWNT win all of their 20 annual scheduled friendlies (a reasonable expectation), they'll be paid 37 percent of what the men would if they somehow managed the same feat. And the men even make more for losing! As the complaint notes, the women would make less even if they won every match while the men lost each one of theirs. Additionally, the men receive $5,000 bonus minimums for playing more than their set 20 game schedule -- the women get squat.
But this isn't just about basic wages. The women also earn less than the men for sponsorship appearances, have a smaller per diem while with the national team, and receive a smaller share of ticket revenue bonuses.
For winning matches, the USWNT earn 37 cents to every dollar the men earn for the same feat -- substantially below the current gender wage gap, which stands at 79 cents on the dollar.
These facts are in no way acceptable, especially given pre-existing unequal conditions for professional men and women soccer players in the United States. Players in the National Women's Soccer League earn between $6,842 and $37,800 (though USWNT players, whose salaries are subsidized by U.S. Soccer, earn more than that), while the average MLS salary was $207,831 in 2014, per Empire of Soccer. U.S. Soccer paying its female internationals fairly would help mitigate the wage canyon at the club level.
On top of pay discrepancies, the women have had to deal with an unholy amount of on-the-pitch bullshit -- they're forced to play in substandard working conditions. The 2015 World Cup was infamously played in artificial turf, all while every FIFA-sanctioned men's match got played on natural grass. The turf crisis is so bad that the USWNT has been forced to boycott certain friendlies, and a December 2015 match in Hawaii was canceled a day after midfielder Megan Rapinoe tore her ACL training on turf. Lest we forget, forward Sydney Leroux's bloodied her knees by training on turf in April 2013:
In a Thursday morning statement, U.S. Soccer refused to comment on the specifics of the women's lawsuit (which, in context, is a piece of a larger legal battle against U.S. Soccer to obtain a new collective bargaining agreement), but did thump their chests about their progressive stance in women's soccer:
We have been a world leader in women's soccer and are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women's game in the United States over the past 30 years.
This is true -- they've help cultivate the best women's team in the world, and compared to Spain and Brazil, the USWNT doesn't see unrelenting sexism fly directly into their faces. The current wage gap, however, is a hidden, nasty part of U.S. Soccer's own systematic sexism, which the USWNT's complaint bluntly pointed out:
There are no legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for this gross disparity of wages, nor can it be explained away by any bona fide seniority, merit or incentive system or any factor other than sex.
If U.S. Soccer has been leading the way for the past 30 years in so many areas, why then does the buck suddenly stop when it comes down to dollars and cents? U.S. Soccer has staked their claim as a progressive force in women's soccer. American soccer players across the country are grateful for that. But just because that's been true in the past doesn't mean the American women -- and especially their federation -- shouldn't continue to lead the way in moving the entire sport into an even better, and more equal, future.
It's time to pay up.