The overdue establishment of equal pay for soccer’s U.S. Women’s National Team stands as a signature victory for gender equality in sports. The end of a six-year dispute with the U.S. Soccer Federation finally establishes the women’s team on equal footing as their male counterparts, long after a history-making run of global on-field success proved they deserve the recognition.
A lawsuit settlement Tuesday to end the prolonged fight delivers $24 million, mostly back pay for the women, and an agreement that the national men’s and women’s teams will be paid the same from now on, as is fair and just.
Global soccer is inequitable in its treatment of women’s teams, as shown by a Goal.com 2021 report on prize money. FIFA’s men’s World Cup prize purse in 2018 amounted to $400 million in total payouts for the 32 competing teams; the winning side, France, got $32 million. The next year, Women’s World Cup teams competed for $30 million total. That’s right: the total tournament pot for 24 women’s teams was less than France’s men got by themselves. This imbalance won’t improve until member nations push for change and do better by their own athletes.
What more could it possibly have taken for the American women to earn equal treatment? The USWNT has won four of the eight Women’s World Cups, including the last two in 2015 and 2019. Team captain Megan Rapinoe has achieved a singular level of superstardom transcending the sports page, and championed social awareness on multiple fronts. Yet women’s soccer players have had to endure unequal pay for representing the nation and a toxic culture of sexual harassment in the National Women’s Soccer League.
Getting pay equalized ought not to have required what Rapinoe called a “monumental win.” It’s been the right thing to do all along. May a fairer future follow.