The U.S. Soccer Federation released a letter from its president Monday saying that it has paid the women’s national team more than the men’s national team in recent years, a move that comes ahead of mediation in the women’s team’s pay-equity lawsuit against its employer.
The pay analysis--which U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said was conducted by U.S. Soccer staff and reviewed by an accounting firm--will add fuel to a complex debate over how the federation has compensated its championship women’s national team.
The federation has faced increasing pressure from the public and Congress over the issue, especially since the U.S. women successfully defended their World Cup title earlier this month.
Corderio said the federation’s analysis showed that U.S. Soccer paid female players $34.1 million in salaries and game bonuses from 2010-2018, while paying the men $26.4 million during the same period. Women’s team members receive salaries plus bonuses and the men receive only bonuses, though larger ones, according to the letter.
The compensation structure for the two teams is different because of their respective collective-bargaining agreements and not because of gender, Cordeiro wrote.
Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the players, called the letter “a sad attempt by USSF to quell the overwhelming tide of support the USWNT has received from everyone from fans to sponsors to the United States Congress.”
The federation pays U.S. women’s team members per-game payments for national-team play along with professional-team salaries for playing in the National Women’s Soccer League, as all 23 members of the women’s World Cup team do. The federation doesn’t pay professional salaries for the men.
Levinson said the federation’s numbers “inappropriately include the NWSL salaries of the players to inflate the women’s players compensation. Any apples to apples comparison shows that the men earn far more than the women.”
When World Cup prize payments from FIFIA, the international governing body of soccer, are included, the U.S. men’s players were paid $41 million from 2010 through 2018 and the U.S. women $39.7 million, according to the letter. During that span, the men reached the round of 16 in 2010 and 2014 and failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament. The women won the 2015 World Cup and finished second in 2011.
FIFA’s total prize money for the 2018 men’s World Cup was $400 million. For the 2019 Women’s World Cup, it was $30 million.
Cordeiro wrote that the federation has mostly refrained from commenting on the March 8 lawsuit and pay issues to focus on the World Cup, which kicked off June 7.
“Just as our WNT players have shared their perspective, I strongly believe that you—as U.S. Soccer members, stakeholders, sponsors and partners—deserve to hear ours,” he wrote.
Soon after holding a conference call with reporters about the letter late Monday afternoon, Cordeiro emailed the women’s players and wrote that, “pressure has been building from Congress, the media, and even our longstanding sponsors, not to mention our own Federation members, asking questions,” according to a source familiar with the situation.
The federation’s Monday statement came close on the heels of the euphoria generated by the U.S. women’s team’s July 7 victory over the Netherlands for its second consecutive World Cup title and fourth title overall. The victory spurred chants of “equal pay” at the final in Lyon, France, and again at a ticker-tape parade held for the team in New York a few days later.
U.S. Soccer and its women’s team soon will head into mediation over the lawsuit filed by all 28 members of the U.S. women’s national team player pool. The suit alleges that the federation illegally pays the women less than the men, despite the women’s superior results. The men haven’t won a World Cup.
The federation pays the members of the U.S. women’s team a $100,000 base salary and $67,500-$72,500 annually to play in the NWSL, according to its Monday letter. The U.S. women also can earn bonuses for playing in national-team games.
The federation didn’t release information about the men’s bonus structure.
From 2009-2019, the women’s national team brought in an average of $425,446 per game and the men’s team an average of $972,147 per game, according to the letter.
This article was originally published by The Wall Street Journal.