The United States women’s soccer team arrived back home from the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada with $2 million. That's how much prize money FIFA awarded to Team USA for winning the tournament, which counts as progress.
“In the last four to five years, it’s been changing more than maybe in the last 10 or 15,” U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Since the last World Cup, we’re getting paid more, other teams are being paid more. FIFA is still doing crazy things like putting our World Cup on artificial turf, but I think the people with the money just need to realize there is money to be made in our game and I think they’re seeing that now.”
Seeing it, but maybe not very clearly. For winning the men's version of the World Cup last year in Brazil, Germany was given $35 million. A more direct comparison shows that the U.S. men's team pocketed $9 million for losing in the round of 16 – more than four times what their female champion counterparts received, for actually winning.
The two tournaments share many similarities in time played, regulations and equipment used, but there are still stark differences in how they are conducted.
There has been an increase in funds for the women, but it is still not even half of what budget is represented for the men reports the Guardian. Last summer, the men's Cup had a budget plan that totaled $576 million. Participation in the men’s tournament alone meant each of the 32 final teams received $1.5 million – nearly as much as the winning women's team did – just for “preparation costs.”
That's more than the women's runner-up, Japan, returned home with ($1.4 million).
FIFA contributed more money to its own self-aggrandizing feature film, "United Passion," which amounted to $22.2 million, according to ESPN.
Of course, women’s soccer isn't as big a business as the men's game. FIFA secretary general, Jérome Valcke, explained that the prize money for men’s World Cup is so much larger due to the much larger revenues it generates. The men’s World Cup “brings in $4.5 billion” for FIFA, he said, and with that the organization is able to fund programs like the men's and women's national youth teams.
But the prize money isn't the only difference in how FIFA runs the women’s World Cup. An obvious distinction is the use of artificial turf fields at this year's Cup. Players and medical personnel agree that artificial surfaces are much tougher on athletes' joints and muscles and can lead to exhaustion and injury.
The men's World Cup has never been competed on artificial turf, and on some occasions, as in 1994 when the U.S. hosted the tournament, some turf stadiums had layers of natural grass laid on top in order to protect the male athletes.
Even so, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said he believed “artificial pitches are the future” of soccer, according to the Guardian.
Some people, U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd among them, would disagree.
“That was a lot harder than any field we’ve played on," she said after Team USA's semifinal win over Germany at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. "I think there’s cement basically laid underneath, so when you stepped onto it, you could actually feel how hard it was.”