The Case For The US Women's Soccer Team Equal Pay Lawsuit

By Katie Maher

In 2015, the U.S. women’s national soccer team generated $20 million more in revenue than the men’s team but continues to earn 25% of what their male counterparts do. That’s why five members of the women’s national team – Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn – recently filed a wage-discrimination action against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the U.S. Soccer Federation.  

During the World Cup last year, the U.S. women’s team won the championship title in a match that 23 million people viewed – an audience size comparable to that of the 2014 World Series Game 7, making the Cup final the most watched soccer game – for men and women – in American TV history. Yet despite the women’s overwhelming popularity and greater success, and despite the fact that the U.S. men’s national team has never won the World Cup, these female athletes continue to experience sizable wage discrimination.  

In a friendly game, the female players get a bonus of $1,350 for winning, while the male players are guaranteed $5,000, even if they lose. So, the top women’s team players earn $72,000 a year to play in twenty games and $99,000 for winning them all, whereas the men’s team players earn $100,000 for playing in twenty games, win or lose. That’s $1,000 more for a man who lost every game than a woman who won every one.

The disparity in pay doesn’t stop with regular season games. When it comes to Olympic athletes, the U.S. Soccer Federation pays men $75/day to cover general costs, while women receive $60/day. The fact that women receive $15 less per day for general Olympic athlete costs is outright discrimination because as Olympic competitors, the men and women are training the same amount and in the same setting.

If it were a matter of a general lack of funding, that would be one thing. But when the U.S. Soccer Federation’s annual financial statement was released to the public in 2015, it was revealed that the organization had $10 million more in assets from the previous year. This increase in funding from the previous year suggests that the Federation has the money to increase female salaries, but is actively choosing not to.

Many people oppose this equal pay lawsuit and the action that these female athletes are taking toward fair pay. Critics often make the argument that it is necessary to offer valuable male soccer players more money in order to keep them wanting to play for the United States. For instance, Tim Howard, the U.S. national team goalie, made $2.6 million/year on the Everton Premier League team in England last year, so his U.S. salary must be high in order to incentivize him to pay in America.

This argument may take into account the international soccer community, but when it comes to U.S. soccer on a national level, the women were far more popular and received higher TV ratings in the past year than the men, and should be equally incentivized by the U.S. Soccer Federation for creating that success and for improving the image of both soccer and female athletics in America. 

Hope Solo, the women’s goalie, earned $240,019 in 2015. Tim Howard, the men’s goalie, earned $398,495 in the same year. Howard earned almost $160,000 more than Solo for playing the same exact position with a worse team record. Hope Solo said of the lawsuit, “we are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships,” she continues, “the numbers speak for themselves.”

Others might counter this lawsuit by saying that the men and women soccer players aren’t doing the same job, because the athleticism and speed of play of a men’s game is far quicker than that of a women’s. However, when it comes down to the hours of dedication, grueling workouts, and constant physical assertion that these women put into this sport, at the end of the day, both the men and women of the U.S. national teams are putting in the same kind of time and energy into the game of soccer. The level of play may not be identical between the two teams, but the women’s national team is the best of its kind. These women are world champions, and deserve to be treated as such.

In addition to paving the way for equality for female athletes in America and around the world, this equal pay action serves a larger purpose in society. By drawing attention to the discrimination that the women’s national team faces in their profession, this lawsuit will serve as the precedent for future cases of gendered pay inequality, and fuel a larger movement for female empowerment in the workforce nationwide.